Science and technology in Hungary

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Science and technology in Hungary has a long history.


Early education history[edit]

The "Berg-Schola", the world's first institute of technology, was founded in Selmecbánya, Kingdom of Hungary[1] (today Banská Štiavnica, Slovakia), in 1735. Its legal successor is the University of Miskolc in Hungary.

BME University is considered[by whom?] the world's oldest institute of technology which has university rank and structure. It was the first institute in Europe to train engineers at university level.[2] The legal predecessor of the university was founded in 1782 by Emperor Joseph II, and was named Latin: Institutum Geometrico-Hydrotechnicum ("Institute of Geometry and Hydrotechnics").

Scientists and inventors[edit]

Important names in the 18th century are Maximilian Hell (astronomer), János Sajnovics (linguist), Matthias Bel (polyhistor), Samuel Mikoviny (engineer) and Wolfgang von Kempelen (polyhistor and co-founder of comparative linguistics). Ányos Jedlik physicist and engineer invented the first electric motor(1828), the dynamo, the self-excitation, the impulse generator, and the cascade connection. Important name in 19th century physics is Joseph Petzval,one of the founders of modern optics. The invention of the transformer (by Ottó Bláthy Miksa Déri and Károly Zipernowsky), the AC electricity meter and the electricity distribution systems with parallel-connected power sources decided the future of electrification in the War of Currents, which resulted in the global triumph of alternate current systems over the former direct current systems. Roland von Eötvös discovered the weak equivalence principle (one of the cornerstones in Einsteinian relativity). Rado von Kövesligethy discovered laws of black body radiation before Planck and Wien.[3][4] Hungary is famous for its excellent mathematics education which has trained numerous outstanding scientists. Famous Hungarian mathematicians include father Farkas Bolyai and son János Bolyai, designer of modern geometry (non-Euclidean geometry) 1820–1823. János Bolyai is together with John von Neumann considered as the greatest Hungarian mathematician ever. The most prestigious Hungarian scientific award is named in honor of János Bolyai. Paul Erdős, famed for publishing in over forty languages and whose Erdős numbers are still tracked;[5] and John von Neumann, Quantum Theory, Game theory a pioneer of digital computing and the key mathematician in the Manhattan Project. Many Hungarian scientists, including Zoltán Bay, Victor Szebehely (gave a practical solution to the three-body problem, Newton solved the two-body problem), Mária Telkes, Imre Izsak, Erdős, von Neumann, Leó Szilárd, Eugene Wigner and Edward Teller emigrated to the US. The other cause of scientist emigration was the Treaty of Trianon, by which Hungary, diminished by the treaty, became unable to support large-scale, costly scientific research; therefore[citation needed] some Hungarian scientists made valuable contributions in the United States. Thirteen Hungarian or Hungarian-born scientists received the Nobel Prize: von Lenárd, Bárány, Zsigmondy, von Szent-Györgyi, de Hevesy, von Békésy, Wigner, Gábor, Polányi, Oláh, Harsányi, and Herskó. All emigrated, mostly because of persecution of communist and/or fascist regimes.[citation needed] Names in psychology are János Selye founder of Stress-theory and Csikszentmihalyi founder of Flow- theory. Tamás Roska is co-inventor of CNN (Cellular neural network) Some highly actual internationally well-known figures of today include: mathematician László Lovász, physicist Albert-László Barabási, physicist Ferenc Krausz, biochemist Árpád Pusztai and the highly controversial former NASA-physicist Ferenc Miskolczi, who denies the green-house effect.[6] According to Science Watch: In Hadron research Hungary has most citations per paper in the world.[7] In 2011 neuroscientists György Buzsáki, Tamás Freund and Péter Somogyi were awarded one million Euro with The Brain Prize ("Danish Nobel Prize")" for ".. brain circuits involved in memory..."[8] After the fall of the communist dictatorship (1989), a new scientific prize, Bolyai János alkotói díj, has been established (1997), politically unbiased and of the highest international standard.

Hungarian inventions[edit]

In August 1939, Szilárd approached his old friend and collaborator Albert Einstein and convinced him to sign the Einstein–Szilárd letter, lending the weight of Einstein's fame to the proposal. The letter led directly to the establishment of research into nuclear fission by the U.S. government and ultimately to the creation of the Manhattan Project. Szilárd, with Enrico Fermi, patented the nuclear reactor).


Early milestones in technology and infrastructure (1700–1918)[edit]

The first steam engine of continental Europe was built in Újbánya - Köngisberg, Kingdom of Hungary (Today Nová Baňa Slovakia) in 1722. It was a Newcomen type engine, it served on pumping water from mines.[19][20][21][22]


A prototype of a Ganz AC electric locomotive in Valtellina, Italy, 1901
The four cylinder 2,950 hp (2,200 kW) MÁV Class 601 was the strongest steam locomotive of pre WW1 Europe.[23][24][25]

The first Hungarian steam-locomotive railway line was opened on 15 July 1846, between Pest and Vác.[26] By 1910, the total length of the rail networks of Hungarian Kingdom had reached 22,869 km (14,210 mi); the Hungarian network linked more than 1,490 settlements. This has ranked Hungarian railways as the sixth-most dense in the world (ahead of countries as Germany or France).[27]

Locomotive engine and railway vehicle manufacturers before World War One (engines and wagons, bridge and iron structures) were the MÁVAG company in Budapest (steam engines and wagons) and the Ganz company in Budapest (steam engines, wagons, the production of electric locomotives and electric trams started from 1894).[28] and the RÁBA Company in Győr.

The Ganz Works identified the significance of induction motors and synchronous motors commissioned Kálmán Kandó (1869–1931) to develop it. In 1894, Kálmán Kandó developed high-voltage three-phase AC motors and generators for electric locomotives. The first-ever electric rail vehicle manufactured by Ganz Works was a 6 HP pit locomotive with direct current traction system. The first Ganz made asynchronous rail vehicles (altogether 2 pieces) were supplied in 1898 to Évian-les-Bains (Switzerland), with a 37-horsepower (28 kW), asynchronous-traction system. The Ganz Works won the tender of electrification of railway of Valtellina Railways in Italy in 1897. Italian railways were the first in the world to introduce electric traction for the entire length of a main line, rather than just a short stretch. The 106-kilometre (66 mi) Valtellina line was opened on 4 September 1902, designed by Kandó and a team from the Ganz works.[29] The electrical system was three-phase at 3 kV 15 Hz. The voltage was significantly higher than used earlier, and it required new designs for electric motors and switching devices.[30][31] In 1918,[32] Kandó invented and developed the rotary phase converter, enabling electric locomotives to use three-phase motors whilst supplied via a single overhead wire, carrying the simple industrial frequency (50 Hz) single phase AC of the high voltage national networks.[33]

Electrified tramways[edit]

The first electric tramway was built in Budapest in 1887, which was the first tramway in Austria-Hungary. By the turn of the 20th century, 22 Hungarian cities had electrified tramway lines in Kingdom of Hungary.

Date of electrification of tramway lines in the Kingdom of Hungary:

Electrified Commuter Railway lines[edit]


The Budapest metro Line 1 (originally the "Franz Joseph Underground Electric Railway Company") is the second oldest underground railway in the world[39] (the first being the London Underground's Metropolitan Line), and the first on the European mainland. It was built from 1894 to 1896 and opened in Budapest on 2 May 1896.[40] In 2002, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[41]

Automotive industry[edit]

"Titan" petrol engine tractor in 1913. It was produced by the Magyar Motor és Gépgyár
A Magomobil Phoenix advertisement in 1911
Marta bus in Arad in 1909
Photograph of a Ganz bus in 1914

Automotive industry: Prior to World War I, the Kingdom of Hungary had four car manufacturer companies; Hungarian car production started in 1900. Automotive factories in the Kingdom of Hungary manufactured motorcycles, cars, taxicabs, trucks and buses. These were: the Ganz company[42][43] in Budapest, RÁBA Automobile[44] in Győr, MÁG (later Magomobil)[45][46] in Budapest, and MARTA (Hungarian Automobile Joint-stock Company Arad)[47] in Arad.

Aeronautical industry[edit]

Hungarian produced Fokker fighter plane
Twin engine heavy bomber, produced by the Hungarian Airplane Factory, joint-stock company (1917).

The first Hungarian hydrogen filled experimental ballons were built by István Szabik and József Domin in 1784. The first Hungarian designed and produced airplane (powered by inline engine) was flew in 1909 at Rákosmező.[48] The International Air-race was organized in Budapest, Rákosmező in June 1910. The earliest Hungarian radial engine powered airplane was built in 1913. Between 1913-18, the Hungarian aircraft industry began developing. The 3 greatest: UFAG Hungarian Aircraft Factory (1914), Hungarian General Aircraft Factory (1916), Hungarian Lloyd Aircraft, Engine Factory (at Aszód (1916),[49] and Marta in Arad (1914).[50] During the WW I, fighter planes, bombers and reconnaissance planes were produced in these factories. The most important aeroengine factories were Weiss Manfred Works, GANZ Works, and Hungarian Automobile Joint-stock Company Arad.

Electrical Industry and Electronics[edit]

Main articles: Ganz Works, War of Currents, and Tungsram

Power plants, generators and transformers

Ottó Bláthy in the armature of a Ganz turbo generator (1904)
36700 hp steam turbine under construction in the Láng Machine Factory, 1913

In 1878, the Ganz company's general manager András Mechwart (1853–1942) founded the Department of Electrical Engineering headed by Károly Zipernowsky (1860–1939). Engineers Miksa Déri (1854–1938) and Ottó Bláthy (1860–1939) also worked at the department producing direct-current machines and arc lamps.

In the autumn of 1884, Károly Zipernowsky, Ottó Bláthy and Miksa Déri (ZBD), three engineers associated with the Ganz factory, had determined that open-core devices were impracticable, as they were incapable of reliably regulating voltage.[51] In their joint 1885 patent applications for novel transformers (later called ZBD transformers), they described two designs with closed magnetic circuits where copper windings were either a) wound around iron wire ring core or b) surrounded by iron wire core.[52] The two designs were the first application of the two basic transformer constructions in common use to this day, which can as a class all be termed as either core form or shell form (or alternatively, core type or shell type), as in a) or b), respectively (see images).[53][54][55][56] The Ganz factory had also in the autumn of 1884 made delivery of the world's first five high-efficiency AC transformers, the first of these units having been shipped on September 16, 1884.[57] This first unit had been manufactured to the following specifications: 1,400 W, 40 Hz, 120:72 V, 11.6:19.4 A, ratio 1.67:1, one-phase, shell form.[57] In both designs, the magnetic flux linking the primary and secondary windings traveled almost entirely within the confines of the iron core, with no intentional path through air (see Toroidal cores below). The new transformers were 3.4 times more efficient than the open-core bipolar devices of Gaulard and Gibbs.[58]

The Hungarian "ZBD" team invented the first high efficiency, closed core shunt connection transformer and practical parallel-connected distribution circuits.

The ZBD patents included two other major interrelated innovations: one concerning the use of parallel connected, instead of series connected, utilization loads, the other concerning the ability to have high turns ratio transformers such that the supply network voltage could be much higher (initially 1,400 to 2,000 V) than the voltage of utilization loads (100 V initially preferred).[59][60] When employed in parallel connected electric distribution systems, closed-core transformers finally made it technically and economically feasible to provide electric power for lighting in homes, businesses and public spaces.[61][62] Bláthy had suggested the use of closed cores, Zipernowsky had suggested the use of parallel shunt connections, and Déri had performed the experiments;[63] The other essential milestone was the introduction of 'voltage source, voltage intensive' (VSVI) systems'[64] by the invention of constant voltage generators in 1885.[65] Ottó Bláthy also invented the first AC electricity meter.[66][67][68][69] Transformers today are designed on the principles discovered by the three engineers. They also popularized the word 'transformer' to describe a device for altering the emf of an electric current,[61][70] although the term had already been in use by 1882.[71][72] In 1886, the ZBD engineers designed, and the Ganz factory supplied electrical equipment for, the world's first power station that used AC generators to power a parallel connected common electrical network, the steam-powered Rome-Cerchi power plant.[73] The reliability of the AC technology received impetus after the Ganz Works electrified a large European metropolis: Rome in 1886.[73]


The first turbo-generators were water turbines which propelled electric generators. The first Hungarian water turbine was designed by the engineers of the Ganz Works in 1866, the mass production with dynamo generators started in 1883.[74] The manufacturing of steam turbo generators started in the Ganz Works in 1903.

In 1905, the Láng Machine Factory company also started the production of steam turbines for alternators.[75]

Light Bulbs, Radio tubes and X-ray

Tungsram is a Hungarian manufacturer of light bulbs and vacuum tubes since 1896. On 13 December 1904, Hungarian Sándor Just and Croatian Franjo Hanaman were granted a Hungarian patent (No. 34541) for the world's first tungsten filament lamp. The tungsten filament lasted longer and gave brighter light than the traditional carbon filament. Tungsten filament lamps were first marketed by the Hungarian company Tungsram in 1904. This type is often called Tungsram-bulbs in many European countries.[76] Their experiments also showed that the luminosity of bulbs filled with an inert gas was higher than in vacuum. The tungsten filament outlasted all other types (especially the former carbon filaments). The British Tungsram Radio Works was subsidiary of the Hungarian Tungsram in pre WW2 days.

Despite the long experimentation with vacuum tubes at Tungsram company, the mass production of radio tubes begun during the ww1,[77] and the production of X-ray tubes started also during the WW1 in Tungsram Company.[78]

Home appliances

The Orion Electronics was founded in 1913. Its main profiles were the production of electrical switches, sockets, wires, incandescent lamps, electric fans, electric kettles, and various household electronics.


A stentor reading the day's news in the Telefon Hírmondó studio

The first telegraph station on Hungarian territory was opened in December 1847 in Pressburg/ Pozsony /Bratislava/. In 1848, – during the Hungarian Revolution – another telegraph centre was built in Buda to connect the most important governmental centres. The first telegraph connection between Vienna and Pest – Buda (later Budapest) was constructed in 1850.[79] In 1884, 2,406 telegraph post offices operated in the Kingdom of Hungary.[80] By 1914 the number of telegraph offices reached 3,000 in post offices, and a further 2,400 were installed in the railway stations of the Kingdom of Hungary.[81]

The first Hungarian telephone exchange was opened in Budapest (May 1, 1881).[82] All telephone exchanges of the cities and towns in the Kingdom of Hungary were linked in 1893.[79] By 1914, more than 2,000 settlements had telephone exchange in the Kingdom of Hungary.[81]

The Telefon Hírmondó (Telephone Herald) service was established in 1893. Two decades before the introduction of radio broadcasting, residents of Budapest could listen to news, cabaret, music and opera at home and in public spaces daily. It operated over a special type of telephone exchange system and its own separate network. The technology was later licensed in Italy and the United States. (see: telephone newspaper).

The first Hungarian telephone factory (Factory for Telephone Apparatuses) was founded by János Neuhold in Budapest in 1879, which produced telephones microphones, telegraphs, and telephone exchanges.[83][84][85]

In 1884, the Tungsram company also started to produce microphones, telephone apparatuses, telephone switchboards and cables.[86]

The Ericsson company also established a factory for telephones and switchboards in Budapest in 1911.[87]

Navigation and Shipbuilding[edit]

Carolina, the first Hungarian built steamship.
SM U-29 Submarine of the Austro-Hungarian Navy. IT was built by the Ganz-Danubius company.
The back of SM U-31 submarine during its assembly in the Ganz - Danubius Company in 1916

The first Hungarian steamship was built by Antal Bernhard in 1817, called S.S. "Carolina". It was also the first steamship in Habsburg ruled states.[88] The daily passenger traffic between the two sides of the Danube by the Carolina started in 1820.[89] The regular cargo and passenger transports between Pest and Vienna began in 1831.[88] However it was Count István Széchenyi (with the help of Austrian ship's company Erste Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaft (DDSG) ), who established the Óbuda Shipyard on the Hungarian Hajógyári Island in 1835, which was the first industrial scale steamship building company in the Habsburg Empire.[90] The most important seaport for the Hungarian part of the k.u.k. was Fiume (Rijeka, today part of Croatia), where the Hungarian shipping companies, such as the Adria, operated. The largest Hungarian shipbuilding company was the Ganz-Danubius. In 1911, The Ganz Company merged with the Danubius shipbuilding company, which largest shipbuilding company in Hungary. Since 1911, the unified company adopted the "Ganz - Danubius" brand name. As Ganz Danubius, the company became involved in shipbuilding before, and during, World War I. Ganz was responsible for building the dreadnought Szent István, supplied the machinery for the cruiser Novara.

Diesel-electric Military Submarines:

The Ganz-Danubius company started to build U-boats at its shipyard in Budapest, for final assembly at Fiume. Several U-Boats of the U-XXIX class, U-XXX class, U-XXXI class and U-XXXII class were completed ,[91] and a number of other types were laid down, remaining incomplete at the war's end.[92] The company built some ocean liners too.

In 1915, the Whitehead company established one of its largest enterprise, the Hungarian Submarine Building Corporation (or in its German name: Ungarische Unterseebotsbau AG (UBAG)) in Fiume, Kingdom of Hungary (Now Rijeka, Croatia).[93][94] SM U-XX, SM U-XXI, SM U-XXII and SM U-XXIII Type diesel-electric submarines were produced by the UBAG Corporation in Fiume.[95][96]

Interwar Period and WW2[edit]

Communist Era (1947–1989)[edit]

John von Neumann, one of the greatest mathematicians in modern history
Albert Szent-Györgyi, Nobel laureate physiologist; discoverer of vitamin C


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