Almost 2 decades before germ theory was laid down, Ignaz Semmelweis became the first physician to suggest that hand-washing could prevent the spread of puerperal fever and related deaths. Ironically, after being ridiculed for his theory, he died in a mental asylum, due to an infection from a wound.
Tommy Ramone was a Hungarian-American record producer, musician, and songwriter. For four years, he served as the drummer for the punk rock band the Ramones. The band was often cited as the first true punk rock group and was highly influential. Even though he left the group in the late 1970s, he maintained good relations with his former bandmates.
Robert Capa was a Hungarian-American photojournalist and war photographer. Regarded as the greatest adventure and combat photographer of all time, Robert Capa is best remembered for covering five major wars, namely Second Sino-Japanese War, Spanish Civil War, World War II, First Indochina War, and the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. In 1947, he was honored with the prestigious Medal of Freedom.
Georg Solti was an operatic and orchestral conductor. He is best remembered for his association with opera companies in London, Frankfurt, and Munich. He also worked with the popular Chicago Symphony Orchestra where he served as a music director for a long time. Solti became the subject of a 1987 biographical TV documentary titled This Is Your Life.
Legendary magician Harry Houdini initially worked as a trapeze artist named “Ehrich, the Prince of the Air” and was later known for his iconic stunt of escaping from handcuffs, at times even under water and while buried alive. He died after a blow to the gut damaged his appendix.
Apart from being the sister of renowned actor Zsa Zsa Gabor, Eva Gabor was a talented actor in her own right. Known as Lisa Douglas from the sitcom Green Acres and its sequel, she was also famous for her voice roles in Disney movies. She later launched a fashion collection, too.
The elder sister of Zsa Zsa and Eva Gabor, Magda Gabor was an actor who had appeared in the film Modern Girls and on a few TV shows. She was rumored to be the mistress of the Portuguese ambassador to Hungary and had later married 6 times.
A professor of design and architecture, Erno Rubik is the man behind the Rubik’s Cube. The Hungarian inventor himself took a month to solve his Rubik’s Cube puzzle, before marketing it worldwide as a popular game. He later also invented Rubik’s Magic and now promotes problem solving and mathematics.
Edward Teller was one of the famous "Martians,” or eminent Hungarian scientists who had migrated to the U.S. A prominent chemical engineer and nuclear physicist, he was part of the team that created the world’s first atomic bomb and also designed the first hydrogen bomb, or thermonuclear bomb.
Peter Munk was a Hungarian-Canadian investor, businessman, and philanthropist. He is credited with founding numerous high-profile business ventures, such as Clairtone Sound Corporation Limited, Barrick Gold Corporation, and TrizecHahn Corporation. He also helped found the Peter and Melanie Munk Charitable Foundation which has given away over $300 million to various non-profit organizations that aim at improving the lives of Canadians.
Starting his music career with the Hungarian metal band Tormentor, Attila Csihar also worked with the Norwegian black metal band Mayhem after the suicide of its lead vocalist. Not known to many, the black metal vocalist is an electrical engineer and has also taught math and physics before venturing into music.
Nobel Prize-winning Hungarian-Swedish chemist George de Hevesy is best remembered for his research on isotopic tracer techniques to study animal metabolism. He is also credited with co-discovering the element hafnium with physicist Dirk Coster. He fled the Nazi regime and moved first to Denmark and then to Sweden.
Dennis Gabor was a Hungarian-British physicist and electrical engineer best remembered for inventing holography. His invention earned him the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physics in 1971. Gabor won several awards during his lifetime. After his demise, many awards are given in his honor. The Dennis Gabor Award and Gabor Medal are some of the awards that are named after him.
Andre Kertesz was a photographer known for his immense contribution to photo essay and photographic composition. Although his style and camera angles, which were considered unorthodox at the time, stopped him from achieving international acclaim during his lifetime, Kertesz is now regarded as one of the most influential figures in the field of photojournalism.
Starting his career as a journalist, László Bíró also tried his hand at Surrealist painting in his early days. Trying to come up with a writing device that would use a fast-drying ink type, he invented the ballpoint pen. Invited by the Argentine government, he set up his pen manufacturing company there.
Jolie Gabor, also known as Mama Jolie, was a renowned socialite and the mother of the actor sisters Zsa Zsa, Magda, and Eva Gabor. Born into a family of famous Hungarian jewelers, she herself owned multiple jewelry shops in Hungary and later established her business in the US.
Physicist Leó Szilárd, one of the "Martians," or eminent scientists who had migrated from Hungary to the U.S., was the first to initiate a controlled nuclear chain reaction and was closely associated with the Manhattan Project, meant to develop the atomic bomb. He later advocated for responsible use of nuclear powers.
One of the “Martians,” or eminent Hungarian scientists who had migrated to the U.S., Eugene Wigner won a Nobel Prize for his work on nuclear physics and the law of conservation of parity in particular. He taught at Princeton and Wisconsin and was also associated with the Manhattan Project.
Starting as a child actor, Ahna Capri later soared to fame with her role of Tania in the movie Enter the Dragon. Her other notable roles were in films such as Piranha and Payday and in series such as Dan August. She died in a fatal car crash.
A Stanford PhD, Charles Simonyi initially worked on one of the world’s first computers for Xerox. He is best known for developing Microsoft Office. Though he launched his own firm, Intentional Software, he later sold it to Microsoft. Part of the Forbes Billionaires 2021 list, he also donates extensively to educational charitable causes.
Known for his 2’9” frame, Mihaly “Michu” Meszaros initially gained fame in the Hungarian National Circus and later as part of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. He is best remembered for his portrayal of an alien, wearing a full-body costume, in the NBC series ALF.
Amrita Sher-Gil was a Hungarian-Indian painter best remembered as a pioneer of modern Indian art. Widely regarded as one of the early-20th century's greatest avant-garde women artists, Sher-Gil's work has influenced several Indian artists like Arpita Singh and Sayed Haider Raza. Her life and career inspired the 1969 documentary film Amrita Sher-Gil which was directed by Bhagwan Das Garga.
Born to Holocaust survivors, Hungarian-born pianist Andras Schiff began learning the piano at age 5. He is now best known for his interpretations of legends such as of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. His numerous awards include a Grammy. He was also knighted for his achievements.
Renowned character actor S. Z. Sakall lost all of his 3 sisters in Nazi concentration camps. A talented stage actor in both Austria and Germany, he later gained international fame with his roles in movies such as Casablanca and Ball of Fire. He earned the nickname Cuddles for his affable appearance.
Born in Hungary, Sylvia Plachy fled to the US with her family after the Hungarian Revolution. Now a renowned photographer, she is mainly known for her stint with the US newsweekly The Village Voice. A Guggenheim fellow and a Lucie Award winner, she is also the mother of Oscar-winning actor Adrien Brody.
Born in Hungary, Miklós Rózsa was a music prodigy and learned to play the violin at age 5. After studying music in Germany, he pursued his music career in France, the UK, and the US. He is remembered for his Academy Award-winning scores in movies such as Ben-Hur and Spellbound.
One of the pioneers of Western Marxism, Hungarian philosopher and literary critic György Lukács also taught at the University of Budapest and later became a major pillar of the Hungarian uprising. His best-known written works include Soul and Form and The Historical Novel, apart from his books on Goethe, Lenin, and Marx.
Hungarian-American psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, who spent most of life teaching at the State University of New York Health Science Center, was known for his controversial claim that mental illnesses aren’t illnesses at all. Part of the anti-psychiatry movement, he penned books such as The Myth of Mental Illness.
Hungarian-British polymath Michael Polanyi contributed to a wide range of subjects, such as chemistry, philosophy, and economics, and also had a medical diploma. He is best remembered for his research on the adsorption of gases but moved away from chemistry after fleeing to England ro escape the Nazi regime.
Hungarian Jewish poet and SOE member Hannah Szenes went down in history for voluntarily parachuting into occupied Europe during World War II to assist the Allied forces and the armed resistance against the Nazis. Captured at the Hungarian border, she was eventually tortured and executed by a firing squad.
Named Miss Universe Hungary 2008, Jázmin Dammak was born to a Hungarian mother and a Tunisian father. The gorgeous model later stepped into acting and stunned audiences with her role of Vampire princess Sonja in the 2003 movie Underworld. She has also been part of the series A Konyhafönök VIP.
Born in Budapest, Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Albert Szent-Györgyi shot himself in the arm while serving in World War II, so that he could be sent back home, and then studied medicine. While he is remembered for first isolating vitamin C, unknown to many, he was also a skilled pianist.
Hungarian-French virtuoso pianist Gyorgy Cziffra was born into a poor family of gypsy musicians and lost his father and sister to starvation. His piano skills got him a job at a circuses and nightclubs. He eventually trained at the Franz Liszt Academy. Following his son’s death in a fire, he stopped performing.
Agnes Keleti is a Hungarian-Israeli former artistic gymnast and coach. A former Olympic and world champion, Keleti won 10 Olympic medals including two bronze medals, three silver medals, and five gold medals. She is regarded as one of the most successful Jewish Olympians of all time. In 2001, Agnes Keleti was inducted into the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame.
A Jewish Hungarian, Andrew G. Vajna fled to Canada alone at age 12, helped by Red Cross, and later met his parents, who had fled to LA. Initially a wig maker, he later owned 2 production companies and introduced the Hungarian National Film Fund, which financed the Oscar-winning movie Son of Saul.