Franz Liszt was a Hungarian composer, conductor, arranger, music teacher, and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era. Considered one of the greatest pianists ever, Liszt's works influenced his contemporaries and successors alike. Perhaps his greatest legacy is his work as a teacher, although his rich body of work might suggest otherwise; he taught people like Karl Klindworth among other pianists.
Bela Bartok was a Hungarian pianist, composer, and ethnomusicologist. Widely regarded as one of the 20th century's most prominent composers, Bartok is also counted among Hungary's greatest composers of all time. He is credited with co-founding comparative musicology, which came to be known as ethnomusicology.
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.
Joseph Pulitzer was a newspaper publisher who became a national figure in the Democratic Party after crusading against corruption and big business. Pulitzer is also credited with founding the Columbia School of Journalism. The world-renowned Pulitzer Prizes, which are awarded annually to reward excellence in various fields, are named in his honor.
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.
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.
11 Peter Lorre
Joseph II reigned as the Holy Roman Emperor from 1765, and as the sole ruler of the Habsburg lands from 1780, until 1790. Son of Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Francis I, and brother of Marie Antoinette, he laid down policies now known as Josephinism. He died without heirs.
New Zealand actor Marton Csokas was born to an Australian mother and a Hungarian father. Known for his roles in series such as Shortland Street and films such as The Equalizer, he chiefly plays the villain. He has his own theater company and has played an award-winning role in the play Uncle Vanya.
While he initially wished to follow in his prosecutor father’s footsteps to be a lawyer, Otto Preminger later discovered his love for theater. A master stage director, he later signed with Fox as one of its first independent filmmakers. He soared to fame with the 1944 film Laura.
16 Erno Rubik
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.
Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor reigned as the king of Hungary and Croatia from 1387 to 1437. He also served as the king of Germany, king of Bohemia, king of Italy, and emperor of the Romans. Sigismund is best remembered for playing a key role in bringing about the Council of Constance, which ended the Papal Schism.
Second son of Emperor Ferdinand III, Leopold I became the heir apparent to his father’s throne on the death of his elder brother in 1654, being coroneted as the Holy Roman Emperor in 1658. Although he received little training for the throne, Austria became a great European power during his reign, emerging victorious in struggles against Ottoman Empire and France.
21 Paul Erdős
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.
Known as The Wonderman, 18th-century French adventurer Comte de Saint-Germain was also a talented musician, especially skilled in the violin, and a well-known chemist. Not only was he proficient in almost all European languages, he had traveled to places such as Russia, the Dutch Republic, and Germany.
24 Imre Nagy
Imre Nagy was a Hungarian politician who served as the third chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Hungarian People's Republic. He also served as the 44th prime minister of Hungary. In 1956, Nagy played an influential role in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 where he led the Revolution against the government, for which he was executed in 1958.
25 László Bíró
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.
Maximilian II was the Holy Roman Emperor from 1564 until his death in 1576. A member of the Austrian House of Habsburg, he was the eldest son of the Habsburg archduke Ferdinand I and Anne of Bohemia and Hungary. He was the nephew of Emperor Charles V. As the king, he adopted a policy of religious neutrality.
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.
28 Georg Solti
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.
29 János Áder
Hungarian president János Áder was born in the small town Csorna and is a qualified lawyer. His first step into politics was as a law expert of the liberal-democratic party Fidesz. He has previously been the Speaker of the National Assembly. The father of four is married to a judge.
Austro-Hungarian journalist Leopold Weiss was a descendant of rabbis and ran away from home in his teens, taking up odd jobs, before finally becoming a journalist in Germany. His work took him to the Middle East, where he converted to Islam and adopted the name Muhammad Asad.
32 Karl Polanyi
Apart from being a political economist, Karl Polanyi was also a prominent Hungarian political leader. The Great Transformation remains his best-known work. He taught at institutes such as the Columbia University and is known for proposing the idea of a cultural version of economics known as substantivism.
33 Béla Tarr
Legendary Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr initially relied on cinema verité to portray the lives of ordinary people in his films. He later gained international fame with iconic films such as Sátántangó and even launched a film school in Sarajevo. He is also known for his signature long takes and long-running movies.
Emperor Leopold I’s eldest son, Joseph I became the king of Hungary at the tender age of 9 and the king of Romans at 11. Though he strengthened Austria’s financial situation, bringing the Viennese city bank under the state, he failed to retain the Spanish crown for the Habsburg Monarchy.
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.
36 Cornel Wilde
Starting his career with Broadway, Cornel Wilde later gained fame for his Academy Award-nominated role of Frédéric Chopin in A Song to Remember. Though he had made it to the US Olympic fencing team in 1936 and had also joined Columbia University to become a physician, he decided to focus on acting instead.
Born into a noble family, Lajos Kossuth grew up to be one of his country’s greatest political reformers. He initially followed in his father’s footsteps to become a lawyer and later entered national politics to become the governor-president of Hungary. He is remembered for his role in the Hungarian Revolution.
Hungarian-British filmmaker Sir Alexander Korda initially worked as a journalist and launched film magazines such as Pesti Mozi. He later moved to Hollywood and then to England, where he launched his production company. Known for producing classics such as The Thief of Baghdad, he was the first filmmaker to be knighted.
39 Andrew Grove
Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy was known for his non-representational art and his love for constructivism. Though he initially studied law, he later experimented with many forms of art, such as painting, sculpting, and photography. He also taught at the Bauhaus school of avant-garde design and co-edited the Bauhausbook series.
Hungarian-French artist Victor Vasarely pioneered the Op Art movement, using geometric angles and depth in works such as Vega-Nor. He initially worked as a graphic artist in advertising agencies and then created masterpieces influenced by Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. His work Zebra remains one of his best-known pieces.
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.
Hungarian composer and folk music legend Zoltan Kodaly pioneered what is known as the Kodály method of music education. His style reflected a fusion of Hungarian, Italian, and French tunes. His music originated from years of research on folk music in Hungarian villages, leading to his thesis on the same.
46 John Hunyadi
Transylvania-born Hungarian military general John Hunyadi had also been the country’s governor. Remembered for his role in the battles of Kosovo and Varna, he eventually succumbed to a plague outbreak, though he went down in history for his valiant exploits against the Turks and is now a legend even in Romania and Bulgaria.
48 S. Z. Sakall
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.
50 Paul Lukas
While actor Paul Lukas initially ruled the Hungarian stage and worked in several productions of Austrian filmmaker and theater director Max Reinhardt, he later moved to the US. He is best remembered for his Academy Award- and Golden Globe-winning portrayal of Kurt Muller in the film Watch on the Rhine.