The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

DENNIS GABOR, Hungarian Inventor


Hygienic Hungarians 

We owe a great debt to various Hungarians, not least Ignaz Semmelweis, the man whose experiments proved the worth of washing one's hands in hospitals.

The death rate in European hospitals was enormous, not least in the Vienna infirmary where Semmelweis worked – the maternity unit was next door to the autopsy room and doctors used both without any thought of hygiene. Semmelweis insisted that everyone entering the maternity ward wash their hands with a chloride solution – and, of course, the death-rate plummeted.

Semmelweis’s theory was extremely attractive, with one problem. If it was true, it would mean that doctors had been personally responsible for thousands of deaths every year. Predictably, many refused to accept this possibility. Semmelweis's theories were never accepted in his lifetime and he eventually died in an insane asylum; the victim of septicemia passed on by a doctor who was treating him.

ENRICO FERMI (1901-54)

Extra-terrestrials are among us, but they call themselves Hungarians.

A banknote issued in post-war Hungary had a number with 19 digits.

Famous Hungarians

Pasteurization was first invented by Preysz Moric. His experiments, which were to preserve the country's famous Bull's Blood wine, took place three years before the more famous Louis Pasteur. The world never heard of the experiments though because all of his articles were written in the undecipherable Hungarian language.

Erno Rubik, of cube fame, was Hungarian, as was Lazlo Biro whose ballpoint pen was preceded by British tanner John Loud's patent. Biro was, however, the first to invent an automatic gearbox (which he sold to Ford). Albert Szent-Gyorgy won a Nobel Prize for discovering Vitamin C and Oszkar Asboth was the first to design a useable helicopter.

The hologram was also invented by a Hungarian - Dennis Gabor. He said: ‘The best way to predict the future is to invent it.’ It is possible that the word ‘Hello’ (as used on the telephone) is Hungarian; the common story is that Edison's Hungarian assistant Puskás Tivadar said ‘Hallom’ meaning ‘I hear you’ when he tested one of the first devices.

The Hungarian word goulash actually means cowboy. You wouldn’t find it on a Hungarian main course menu, to the locals it is a meaty soup. Gulyas leves means ‘soup of the cowboy’. The Hungarian word for what everybody outside Hungary calls goulash is porkolt or paprikas.

Other famous Hungarians include mathematicians Paul Erdos and John Von Neumann, escapologist Harry Houdini, and K. M. Benkert, the man who coined the word ‘homosexual’. 

Hungary’s Past

Hungary used to be one of the cultural centres of the western world. In 1492, the population of England and Hungary was about the same, and Hungary was probably the more advanced. However the discovery of the Americas virtually closed down the Adriatic trade route overnight, and today England is five times as populous. The decline was completed after the First World War when, having been forced to join sides with Germany when it seemed that this was the only help they were going to get against Serbia and the rest of the Balkans, they were punished by the Treaty of Trianon. Hungary lost nearly three-quarters of its territory and millions of its citizens. Even today, one-third of all Hungarians live outside its borders. 

St George is the patron saint of Germany, Armenia, Lithuania, Portugal, Malta and Hungary.

Some Hungarian meadows can contain up to 50 different species of grass.