In its almost 250-year history, the university and its legal predecessors have had fifteen different names, and the name changes can also be used in many cases to track the major changes in Hungarian history. In preparation for the 250th anniversary of the university’s founding, we are launching a new series on the university’s history, with the first part providing an overview of the university’s changes in name and location.
The charter of foundation dated October 8, 1635 and signed by Péter Pázmány contains the name Achiepiscopal University, although in everyday use it was simply referred to as the University of Nagyszombat (today Trnava, Slovakia).
A charter signed by Empress Maria Theresa on July 17, 1769 raised the status of the university from an achiespiscopal to a royal institute, and following a decree signed on November 7 of the same year, the organization of education on the newly established medical faculty began. The now state-controlled university moved in 1777 from Nagyszombat to Buda, the center of the country, into a royal palace modified for this purpose, thus in the Diploma Inaugurale of the university dated March 25, 1780, we already find the name Royal University of Buda.
Emperor Joseph II, due to the moving of the country’s major administrative offices to Buda, decided on the transfer of the Universitas to Pest, which took place in 1784. The Medical Faculty was located in a former monastery of the Jesuits, who had been banned a few years prior. Joseph II also stipulated in a decree that the university’s name should refer to Hungary and not Pest as a location, thus emphasizing the university’s national significance. The university subsequently bore the name Royal University of Hungary for 64 years.
The April Laws passed during the Revolution of 1848 contained a separate article (1848: XIX. Art.) dealing with the university, which changed its name to University of Hungary and declared its independence and reaffirmed the liberal principle of academic freedom. Following the surrender, from 1849 the use of the name Imperial and Royal University of Pest was mandated, and the post-war retaliation severely affected the university’s academic staff, with many teachers imprisoned or forced to emigrate.
From 1861, the officially used name Hungarian Royal University of Science already indicates a period of easing after the years of overt despotism, but the public just called the institution the University, as until 1872 it was the only one in the country. However, with the foundation of new universities, it became necessary to take on a distinguishing attribute. From 1873, after the name of the newly unified capital city, the official name became Royal Hungarian University of Science in Budapest, although the University Rulebook of 1903 instead uses the name in the order of Hungarian Royal University of Science in Budapest, to emphasize its national characteristic.
Following the First World War, during the period of the Aster Revolution and the subsequent Hungarian Soviet Republic, the “royal” attribute was once again abandoned, thus between November 1918 and August 1919 the Hungarian University of Science in Budapest name was used, while under the Horthy regime that followed, the name previously used from 1873 returned.
At the initiative of the university council, the name of the institution changed in 1921 to Hungarian Royal Pázmány Péter University of Science in Budapest, thus paying tribute to its founder. With the abolishing of the monarchy in 1945, the name was simplified to Pázmány Péter University of Science, and in September 1950 the university took up the name of its renowned earlier professor, Loránd Eötvös.
At the end of 1950, the Council of Ministers decided on establishing specialized universities to be organized under the various competent ministries. During the reorganization process, medical faculties were split off from the universities of science, and independent medical universities were created. As of February 1, 1951, the medical faculty continued its operation as the Medical University of Budapest (BOTE), and from 1955 it was operating with three faculties: those of medicine, dentistry and pharmacy.
The independent university took up the name of its one-time professor Ignác Semmelweis on the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the original Faculty of Medicine, thus as of November 7, 1969 the name Semmelweis University of Medicine came into use, but the public just referred to it by its acronym SOTE. Even today, although erroneously, it is often called by this name.
On January 1, 2000 the university merged with the Imre Haynal University of Health Sciences and the University of Physical Education, and with the integration of the three institutions the name changed as well, as programs not strictly dealing with medicine were added to the range of trainings offered. This was when the institution took up the name of Semmelweis University, which it still uses today.
Compiled by Dr. László Molnár (Central Archives) and Zenina Sági (Directorate of Communication and Event Management)
Translation: Tamás Deme
Illustration: watercolor painting by Géza Mirkovszky
(Source used: József Papp: Traditions and Memorabilia at Eötvös Loránd University of Science. Bp., 1982.)