This presentation is about Hungarian inventors. Some of them are physicists, others are engineers or doctors, and we are very proud of them because they discovered or invented things that are well-known all over the world and we use them almost every day. In this presentation I picked 12 Hungarian inventions and I think you will recognize some of them.
First of all, I would like to speak about Ányos Jedlik, who made soda water or sparkling water. I know that people in Iceland do not often drink soda water, but it is very popular in some other countries. In Hungary we also drink it with wine which is called “fröccs”. It is quite popular and refreshing on hot summer days, especially with blue-collar workers. Ányos Jedlik was Benedictine priest but also one of our greatest scientists. He was also a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and author of several books. In 1826 he made equipment which prepared artificial carbonated water. Its name was sour water device. The first soda factory in Budapest was built according to his plans and technology. There sparkling water was filled in soda siphons.
János Irinyi, who was a Hungarian chemist, invented the noiseless and non-explosive match in 1836. His idea was to make laboratories safer after his professor had an accident. A match is a tool for starting a fire. They are made of small wooden sticks and their heads are coated with a material which contains granulated phosphorus. It can be ignited by striking the match against a suitable surface. Matches are well known and we use them every day, because they are practical and safe. Later Irinyi founded several match factories.
Ignác Semmelweis, a Hungarian doctor, who is also known as the ‘Saviour of Mothers’. He saved mother’s lives by using the method of hand disinfection. Many women died of childbed fever, which was common in hospitals in the 19th century. Semmelweis realized that the disease was spread by doctors. After examining dead bodies, they did not wash their hands before examining mothers who had just given birth to their babies. Therefore bacteria infected the mothers and this led to childbed fever. Ignác Semmelweis discovered in 1847 that hand disinfection is more important than everything. He ordered that everyone had to wash their hands with chlorinated lime solution. Some professors argued with him, because they did not believe him first, but eventually his antiseptic procedure saved the life of thousands of mothers.
Ányos Jedlik’s best known invention in addition to the soda water is the principle of dynamo self-excitation. In 1827 he started experimenting with electromagnetic rotating devices and he laid the theory of the dynamo down. He did not invite the dynamo as an electrical machine, but recognized the principle of self-rotors and on this basis he described the principle of the dynamo. This all happened in 1861, six years before Siemens and Wheatstone documented their work. We can find a dynamo, for example on our bicycle. It generates light when we ride our bike.
Tivadar Puskás was a Hungarian engineer. He worked with Edison, who invented the telephone. Tivadar Puskás wanted to make a system that connects telephone calls. This system is called a telephone exchange. The first telephone exchange was built in Boston, after that in Paris and in Budapest. With the help of this invention, a lot of people could use the telephone at the same time. So this was the ancestor of the modern phone networks.
The engineer who invented an electric locomotive was Kálmán Kandó. He worked in several places in Italy, France, and the USA and of course in Hungary. The first electric railway in the world was built according to his plans in Italy in 1898. With electric railways transportation became easier and faster. All in all, he was an important figure in the history of transport.
Oszkár Asbóth was a plane builder and the inventor of the helicopter. After World War I he was experimenting for more than ten years. He produced a plane which could take off and land vertically. First in 1928 this helicopter could take off with a pilot. The test was successful. After that more than 95 take-offs were performed, but these helicopters could not levitate or fly in a balanced way. The problem of in-flight stability was solved later, but we are still proud of Oszkár Asbóth for designing the first helicopter.
And now a few words about physiology and biochemistry. The person who must be mentioned is Albert Szent-Györgyi, a Hungarian doctor and biochemist. He was looking for vitamin C or ascorbic acid, a molecule that only plants and some animals can produce. Vitamin C is essential for the human body because we are not able to produce or store it. That means we need it every day. If we do not take enough vitamin C, we can get a disease called scurvy.
The discovery of vitamin C has an interesting story. According to the legend Szent-Györgyi hated green pepper. One day his wife added some to his dinner. He did not want to argue with her so he hid the pepper in his pocket. The next day he went to his laboratory where he was searching for the material which contained vitamin C. After studying a lot of fruits and vegetables which also contain that vitamin, he tried the pepper too. That evening he found the solution, a huge dose of vitamin C. Having tried to produce some of vitamin C from several kinds of plants, finally he found one, the pepper, from which he could extract a large amount. Therefore Szent-Györgyi was able to collect some kilos of the vitamin C. For his invention he received the Nobel Prize in 1937.
László Bíró had a varied and colourful life and several kinds of jobs. He worked as a race car driver, an insurance agent, painter, sculptor, editor, inventor to name a few. And he was a journalist too, who wrote articles. And it was important for him to write fast, so he tried to improve the slow and complicated pens.
One day as he was watching children playing with a ball, he noticed that when a ball was rolled across a puddle, it left a line on the dry concrete. This experience gave him the idea to prepare a ballpoint-pen. So László Bíró invented the ballpoint-pen in 1938, which we still use every day.
This picture was taken in 1944. This is János Neumann in front of his IAS machine, the first electronic computer, which he built in Princeton, New Jersey. Neuman was born in Budapest. He studied Mathemathics, Physics and Chemistry. Later he was a professor of several universities in Europe and the US. He was looking for a machine which imitates the working of the human brain. This is how he laid the basic principles of the modern computer. These are the Neumann’s principles. Based on these ideas János Neumann prepared the first working computer in 1944. It did calculations using an algorithm like the human brain.
Dénes Gábor was a Hungarian-British scientist, who took his degree in mechanical and electrical engineering. As a researcher he proposed the theory of the holography while he was experimenting with the electron microscope in Britain. The first hologram was prepared 15 years later, after technological background had been made. This also goes to show that his theoretical calculation had been right. For inventing holography, Dénes Gábor received the the Nobel Prize in 1971.
My final pick is this 3-D combination puzzle, and I’m sure there are a few of this toy even in Höfn. Ernő Rubik is an architect and university professor, but he is best known for designing puzzles and toys. He created his famous magic cube in 1974. He is introvert and does not like to attend public events. In a CNN interview he said about his cube that ‘I was searching to find a good task for my students’. Ernő Rubik is known all over the world because of his puzzles which improve logical thinking.
Rubic’s cube became so popular that world competitions are organized for speedcubers. Finally I would like to show you a short video of the Hungarian winner of the Rubic’s Cube Blindfolded Competition in 2012.
Written by Julcsi