Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős spent most of his childhood at home, due to his mother’s overprotectiveness after his sisters died of scarlet fever. Known for his eccentricity, he used his own vocabulary. His contributions include the Ramsey theory, and he skipped many university job offers to continue working independently.
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.
Hungarian biochemist Katalin Karikó is best known for her research on mRNA, which led scientists to develop the first mRNA-based vaccine in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. After working at the Biological Research Centre in Szeged, she moved to the US due to lack of funding.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
11 George Pólya
Known as the father of problem solving in math, mathematician George Pólya taught at ETH Zürich and Stanford, and was one of The Martians who moved from Hungary to the US. His book How to Solve It became widely popular with students of math. Three prizes were later named after him.
Austro-Hungarian-born German physicist and engineer Hermann Oberth is regarded as one of the founding fathers of astronautics and rocketry along with Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Robert Esnault-Pelterie, and Robert Goddard. His classic book The Rocket into Planetary Space gained him widespread attention. Oberth garnered a patent for his rocket design and launched his first rocket near Berlin, Germany, on May 7, 1931.
Hungarian-American mathematician Theodore von Karman is best known for his research on aeronautics. Born to a professor father, Karman was a math prodigy in childhood and was pushed into engineering. He was also the first recipient of the National Medal of Science. A bachelor for life, he lived with his mother and sister.
14 Imre Lakatos
15 Paul Halmos
Born in Hungary, Paul Halmos moved to the US with his family at 13. While he initially set out to complete a PhD in philosophy, he later focused on math. One of The Martians from Hungary, he is known for his contributions to areas such as logic, probability, and statistics.
16 Paul Nemenyi
Hungarian mathematician Paul Nemenyi is best remembered for his contribution to fluid dynamics through his inverse or semi-inverse approach. The continuum mechanics specialist taught in Berlin and the US. In 2002, an investigation revealed he was the biological father of chess legend Bobby Fischer and not Hans-Gerhardt Fischer.
Hungarian-American mathematician and computer scientist John G. Kemeny is remembered for his pathbreaking co-discovery of BASIC computer language. Though he and his parents managed to escape the Nazis by fleeing to the US, he lost his grandfather to the Holocaust. He also worked on the Manhattan Project.
18 Raoul Bott
Hungarian-born mathematician Raoul Bott is best remembered for his significant contribution to differential geometry and topology. He grew up in Czechoslovakia, the US, and Canada, and he also served the Canadian Army during World War II. He later taught at Harvard and the University of Michigan.
19 Peter Lax
Abel Prize-winning Hungarian-American mathematician Peter Lax is remembered for his pathbreaking research on the partial differential equation and its application. He initilly worked for the US’s Manhattan Project and then taught at the New York University and even became the director of the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.
20 John Polanyi
John Charles Polanyi is a Hungarian-Canadian scientist, who won the Noble Prize in Chemistry for his contribution to the dynamics of chemical reaction. He developed a technique called infrared chemiluminescence, which helped him to study the exchange of chemical bonds and detail how the excess energy is removed during chemical reactions.
Nobel Prize-winning Hungarian-American chemist George A. Olah, part of the scientists’ group The Martians, is best remembered for his pioneering research on carbocations. He moved to Canada during the revolution of 1956, after which he moved to Massachusetts and to Ohio in the U.S., eventually settling in Los Angeles.
Remembered for his research on molecular surface tension, physicist Loránd Eötvös also invented the torsion pendulum. Born to a famous Hungarian author and minister, Eötvös initially aspired to become a lawyer but later deviated to physics. The University of Budapest, where he taught, was later named after him.
Hungarian-American engineer Peter Carl Goldmark contributed to many pathbreaking inventions, of which the most notable was the commercial color TV and the LP record. Known for his stint with Columbia Records, he also developed a scanning system used by the US to relay photos from the Moon to the Earth.
Abel Prize-winning mathematician and computer scientist Endre Szemerédi initially aspired to be a doctor but later quit his medical studies and took up a factory job. He then switched to math and eventually earned a PhD in the subject, taught at Rutgers University, and developed theorems on topics such as arithmetic progression.
26 László Babai
University of Chicago professor László Babai is best known for his research on topics such as complexity theory, finite groups, and algorithms. He has authored almost 200 academic papers and has been the editor-in-chief of Theory of Computing. His numerous honors include the Gödel Prize and the Hungarian State Prize.
Born to Jewish teacher parents in Hungary, Avram Hershko spent a few years in a concentration camp during World War II. He and his family managed to escape and settled in Israel, where he became a renowned chemist, later winning the Nobel Prize for discovering how cells remove unwanted proteins.
Hungarian mathematician Frigyes Riesz is largely regarded as a pioneer of functional analysis. He taught at a number of institutes such as the University of Szeged and also co-founded the journal Acta Scientiarum Mathematicarum. His lectures involved an assistant and a docent, quite unusual for his time.
Nobel Prize-winning biophysicist Georg von Békésy revolutionized medical science with his discovery of how the cochlea, a part of the inner ear, affects sound reception. His initial research at the Hungarian Telephone System gave way to more intense studies at Harvard and the Karolinska Institute. He later taught at the University of Hawaii.
30 Mária Telkes
32 Marcel Riesz
Hungarian physicist and engineer Kalman Tihanyi had initially been part of the Hungarian Royal Army. He later made significant contributions to the development of the cathode ray tube with his invention Radioskop and was thus a pioneering figure in the development of the electronic TV.
Hungarian physicist and mathematician Johann Andreas Segner is largely remembered for introducing the concept of surface tension of liquids. Initially a physician, he later became the University of Göttingen’s first professor of math. His inventions include the Segner wheel, a form of water turbine resembling the modern-day lawn sprinkler.