George Szekeres

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George Szekeres
George Szekeres.jpg
George Szekeres, 2001
Born (1911-05-29)29 May 1911
Budapest, Hungary
Died 28 August 2005(2005-08-28) (aged 94)
Adelaide, Australia
Residence Hungary
Nationality Hungarian-Australian
Fields Mathematician
Institutions University of Adelaide
University of New South Wales
Alma mater Technical University of Budapest
Doctoral students John Schutz
Alfred van der Poorten
Known for Szekeres snark
Kruskal–Szekeres coordinates
Erdős–Szekeres theorem
Notable awards Thomas Ranken Lyle Medal (1968)

George Szekeres AM (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈsɛkɛrɛʃ]; 29 May 1911 – 28 August 2005) was a Hungarian–Australian mathematician.

Early years[edit]

Szekeres was born in Budapest, Hungary, as Szekeres György and received his degree in chemistry at the Technical University of Budapest. He worked six years in Budapest as an analytical chemist. He married Esther Klein in 1936. Being Jewish, the family had to escape from the Nazi persecution so Szekeres took a job in Shanghai, China. There they lived through World War II, the Japanese occupation and the beginnings of the Communist revolution. Their son, Peter, was born in Shanghai.


In 1948, he was offered a position at the University of Adelaide, Australia, that he gladly accepted. After all the troubles he had, he began flourishing as a mathematician. A few years later, his daughter Judy was born. In 1963, the family moved to Sydney, where Szekeres took a position at the University of New South Wales, and taught there until his retirement in 1975. He also devised problems for secondary school mathematical olympiads run by the university where he taught, and for a yearly undergraduate competition run by the Sydney University Mathematics Society.

Szekeres worked closely with many prominent mathematicians throughout his life, including Paul Erdős, Esther Szekeres (née Esther Klein), Pál Turán, Béla Bollobás, Ronald Graham, Alf van der Poorten, Miklós Laczkovich, and John Coates.


Personal life[edit]

The so-called Happy Ending problem is an example of how mathematics pervaded George's life. During 1933, George and several other students met frequently in Budapest to discuss mathematics. At one of these meetings, Esther Klein proposed the following problem:

Given five points in the plane in general position, prove that four of them form a convex quadrilateral.

After allowing George, Paul Erdős, and the other students to scratch their heads for some time, Esther explained her proof. Subsequently, George and Paul wrote a paper (1935) that generalises this result; it is regarded as one of the foundational works in the field of combinatorial geometry. Erdős dubbed the original problem the "Happy Ending" problem because it resulted in George and Esther's marriage in 1937.

George and Esther died within an hour of each other, on the same day, 28 August 2005, in Adelaide, Australia.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Commonwealth of Australia (1 January 2001). "It's an Honour". Canberra: Honours and Awards Branch, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 20 June 2010.  External link in |work= (help)
  2. ^ Commonwealth of Australia (10 June 2002). "Its an Honour". Canberra: Honours and Awards Branch, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 20 June 2010.  External link in |work= (help)
  3. ^ Obituary, The Sydney Morning Herald


  • Giles, J. R., Wallis, J. S., "George Szekeres. With affection and respect", Journal of the Australian Mathematical Society Series A, Vol 21 (1976), No 4, pp. 385–392.
  • Cowling, M., "Obituary George and Esther Szekeres", Gazette of the Australian Mathematical Society, Vol 32 (2005), No 4, pp. 221–224.
  • Erdős, Paul; Szekeres, George (1935). "A combinatorial problem in geometry". Compositio Mathematica. 2: 463–470. 

External links[edit]