Famous Hungarian Scientists

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Find out more about the greatest Hungarian Scientists, including John von Neumann, Thomas Szasz, László Babai, Michael Polanyi and Albert Szent-Györgyi.
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 1 
John von Neumann
(Great Mathematician Who Were Equally at Home in Pure and Applied Mathematics)
John von Neumann
13
Birthdate: December 28, 1903
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary
Died: February 8, 1957
Hungarian-American scientist John von Neumann contributed to the development of game theory and the concept of self-replication. His work covered vast areas including math, economics, physics, and computer science. His research on nuclear physics led him to be part of the advisory committee of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.
 2 
Paul Erdős
(Mathematician)
Paul Erdős
21
Birthdate: March 26, 1913
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Budapest, Austria-Hungary
Died: September 20, 1996

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.

 3 
Katalin Karikó
(mRNA technology in immunology and therapies)
Katalin Karikó
0
Birthdate: January 17, 1955
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Szolnok, Hungary

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.

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 4 
George de Hevesy
(Hungarian Radiochemist Known for His Key Role in the Development of 'Radioactive Tracers')
George de Hevesy
5
Birthdate: August 1, 1885
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary
Died: July 5, 1966

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.

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 5 
Charles Simonyi
(Astronaut, Computer scientist, Engineer, Scientist, Programmer)
Charles Simonyi
6
Birthdate: September 10, 1948
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Budapest

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.

 6 
Thomas Szasz
(Psychiatrist)
Thomas Szasz
5
Birthdate: April 15, 1920
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary
Died: September 8, 2012

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.

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 7 
Theodore von Karman
(Mathematician)
Theodore von Karman
3
Birthdate: May 11, 1881
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Budapest
Died: May 6, 1963

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.

 8 
Albert Szent-Györgyi
(Physiologist)
Albert Szent-Györgyi
3
Birthdate: September 16, 1893
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Budapest, Austria-Hungary
Died: October 22, 1986

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.

 9 
Dennis Gabor
(Father of Holography)
Dennis Gabor
3
Birthdate: June 5, 1900
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Budapest
Died: February 8, 1979

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.

 10 
Hermann Oberth
(Physicist)
Hermann Oberth
3
Birthdate: June 25, 1894
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Sibiu, Romania
Died: December 28, 1989

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.

 11 
George Pólya
(Hungarian Mathematician and Professor of Mathematics at Stanford University)
George Pólya
3
Birthdate: December 13, 1887
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary
Died: September 7, 1985

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.

 12 
Imre Lakatos
(Philosopher of Mathematics and Science Who Introduced the Concept of 'Research Program')
Imre Lakatos
3
Birthdate: November 9, 1922
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Debrecen, Hungary
Died: February 2, 1974
Hungarian Jewish philosopher Imre Lakatos is best known for developing the research programme as a methodology. During the Nazi invasion of Hungary, he had joined a Marxist resistance group and had even changed his surname to evade persecution, though he lost his mother and grandmother in the Holocaust.
 13 
Paul Nemenyi
(Physicist)
Paul Nemenyi
3
Birthdate: June 5, 1895
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Rijeka
Died: March 1, 1952

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.

 14 
John G. Kemeny
(Mathematician)
John G. Kemeny
2
Birthdate: May 31, 1926
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary
Died: December 26, 1992

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.

 15 
Paul Halmos
(Mathematician, Philosopher, Statistician)
Paul Halmos
3
Birthdate: March 3, 1916
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Budapest
Died: October 2, 2006

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 
Raoul Bott
(Hungarian-American Mathematician Best Known for His Bott Periodicity Theorem)
Raoul Bott
2
Birthdate: September 24, 1923
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary
Died: December 20, 2005

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.

 17 
Peter Lax
(Mathematician, University teacher)
Peter Lax
4
Birthdate: May 1, 1926
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Budapest

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.

 18 
John Polanyi
(Chemist)
John Polanyi
2
Birthdate: January 23, 1929
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany

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.

 19 
George A. Olah
2
Birthdate: May 22, 1927
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary
Died: March 8, 2017

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.

 20 
Loránd Eötvös
(Physicist)
Loránd Eötvös
2
Birthdate: July 27, 1848
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary
Died: April 8, 1919

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.

 21 
Franz Nopcsa von Felso-Szilvas
(Geologist, Paleontologist and Albanologist)
Franz Nopcsa von Felso-Szilvas
2
Birthdate: May 3, 1877
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Deva, Romania
Died: April 25, 1933
 22 
Peter Carl Goldmark
(Engineer, Physicist)
Peter Carl Goldmark
2
Birthdate: December 2, 1906
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Budapest
Died: December 7, 1977

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.

 23 
Endre Szemerédi
(Hungarian-American Mathematician Famous for His Work in Combinatorics and Theoretical Computer Science)
Endre Szemerédi
2
Birthdate: August 21, 1940
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary

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.

 24 
László Babai
(Mathematician, Computer scientist, University teacher)
László Babai
2
Birthdate: July 20, 1950
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Budapest

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.

 25 
Avram Hershko
(Biochemist, Educationist, University teacher)
Avram Hershko
2
Birthdate: December 31, 1937
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Karcag

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.

 26 
Frigyes Riesz
(Mathematician)
Frigyes Riesz
2
Birthdate: January 22, 1880
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Győr, Hungary
Died: February 28, 1956

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.

 27 
Georg von Békésy
(Hungarian researcher)
Georg von Békésy
2
Birthdate: June 3, 1899
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Budapest
Died: June 13, 1972

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.

 28 
Mária Telkes
(Biophysicist)
Mária Telkes
2
Birthdate: December 12, 1900
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary
Died: December 2, 1995
 29 
Richard Adolf Zsigmondy
(Austrian-born Chemist Who Won Nobel Prize in Chemistry for His Research in Colloids)
Richard Adolf Zsigmondy
2
Birthdate: April 1, 1865
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: September 23, 1929

Richard Adolf Zsigmondy was an Austrian-born chemist. He is best remembered for winning the 1925 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his research in colloids. Richard Adolf Zsigmondy is also credited with co-inventing the slit-ultramicroscope.

 30 
Marcel Riesz
(Former Mathematician known for work on summation methods)
Marcel Riesz
1
Birthdate: November 16, 1886
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Győr, Hungary
Died: September 4, 1969
 31 
Kalman Tihanyi
(Physicist)
Kalman Tihanyi
0
Birthdate: April 28, 1897
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Zbehy, Slovakia
Died: February 26, 1947

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.

 32 
Franz Xaver von Zach
1
Birthdate: June 4, 1754
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Pest, Budapest, Hungary
Died: September 2, 1832
 33 
Johann Andreas Segner
(Hungarian Scientist Known for Developing and Construction of the First Water-Jet)
Johann Andreas Segner
1
Birthdate: October 9, 1704
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bratislava, Slovakia, Hungary
Died: October 5, 1777

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.

 34 
Imre Bródy
(Hungarian Physicist Who Invented the Krypton Electric Bulb)
Imre Bródy
0
Birthdate: December 23, 1891
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Gyula, Hungary
Died: December 20, 1944

Imre Bródy was a Hungarian physicist best remembered for inventing the krypton electric bulb in 1930. Along with Michael Polanyi, Bródy also developed the technology to produce krypton bulbs. The research institute of Tungsram, a General Electric wing, is named after Imre Bródy.

 35 
Attila Grandpierre
(Musician, Astrophysicist)
Attila Grandpierre
1
Birthdate: July 4, 1951
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary
 36 
John Xantus
(Zoologist, Ornithologist)
John Xantus
0
Birthdate: October 5, 1825
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Hungary
Died: December 13, 1894
 37 
Imre Friedmann
(Biologist)
Imre Friedmann
0
Birthdate: 1921 AD
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary
Died: June 11, 2007