Semmelweis University is proud to have had numerous prominent personalities on its teaching staff ever since its foundation as the Medical Faculty of the University of Nagyszombat. Some of them have been commemorated through street names in the University’s vicinity (e.g. János Bókai, Endre Hőgyes, Sándor Korányi, Mihály Lenhossék, Ignác Semmelweis, Géza Mihálkovics). Below, we introduce you to a small selection of these important figures, listed according to their date of birth.
Sámuel Rácz (1744-1807) taught physiology and a selection of other subjects from 1783 until his death. He wrote the first Hungarian physiology textbook, entitled A Short Summary of Physiology [A physiológiának rövid sommája], published in 1789 in Pest (now Budapest). His work was meant primarily for Master of Surgery students who couldn’t speak Latin.
Detailed biography of Sámuel Rácz (on the Friends of Semmelweis University website).
Pál Kitaibel (1757-1817) taught botany from 1784 as a medical student until his retirement in 1816. He was one of the most significant natural scientists of his time, as well as the founder of the University’s botanical collection. He systematically toured Hungary (with the exception of the then separately governed Transylvania), and collected its flora and mineral waters; he even assembled an ethnographic collection.
Ferenc Bene (1775-1858) taught theoretical medicine at the Royal University of Hungary’s Medical Faculty (now Semmelweis University) from 1799, later moving on to teach other subjects, as well. In 1801, he administered the first smallpox vaccine in Hungary, also playing a major role in its propagation. Bene was one of the people behind the planning and implementation of the measures to fight the Great Cholera Epidemic of 1831. It was upon his initiative that the first professional organisations began their work in the form of the Hungarian Physicians and Natural Philosophers’ series of congresses, which commenced in 1841.
Detailed biography of Ferenc Bene (on the Friends of Semmelweis University website).
János Teophil Fabini (1791-1847) was the first professor of ophthalmology in Hungary. It was through his appointment to professorship that ophthalmology became a regular subject at the University. His 1823 textbook, Doctrina de Morbis Oculorum, was translated into five languages (Dutch, English, German, Hungarian, Italian) and used at universities in various countries.
Detailed biography of János Teophil Fabini (on the Friends of Semmelweis University website).
Ágost Schoepf-Merei (1804-1858) taught medical history at the University from 1836. However, it was his introduction of paediatrics to Hungary – a discipline he began teaching at the University in 1844 – that made him renowned. He founded an orthopaedics institute in 1836, which was washed away by the Great Flood of 1838 just two years later. In 1839, he established the Poor Children’s Hospital, the first paediatric hospital in Hungary. Schoepf-Merei also wrote the first Hungarian paediatric textbook in 1847. He served as an army physician during the Hungarian War of Independence (1848-1849), and so was forced into exile following its defeat. After making several short stops, he finally settled in Manchester, where he co-founded another paediatric hospital, the Clinical Hospital for the Diseases of Children, in 1856.
Lajos Arányi (1812-1887) is credited with the introduction of pathology to the University’s curriculum. He lectured on the subject starting in 1844, and wrote the first Hungarian pathology textbook, as well. He founded a pathology institute at the University in 1854, at his own expense. Beyond his narrowly defined profession, Arányi was involved in historic preservation (e.g. the description of the Vajdahunyad Castle), collected folk remedies, and made linguistic and ethnographic observations.
Detailed biography of Lajos Arányi (on the Friends of Semmelweis University website).
János Balassa (1814-1868) was considered the greatest surgeon of his time. He was a student of the Second Viennese Medical School (Hebra, Skoda, Rokitansky), but was also influenced by the French surgical school. In the 1840s, his circle of friends (Korányi, Markusovszky, Lumniczer, Semmelweis, Bókai) comprised the so-called Medical School of Pest (now Semmelweis University), which later came to play a leading role in the development of Hungarian health care. Balassa was among the first to perform ether anaesthesia in Hungary, and was one of the pioneers of plastic surgery. He was a founder of the Hungarian Medical Journal [Orvosi Hetilap] in 1857.
Ignác Semmelweis (1818-1865), popularly known as “the saviour of mothers” is probably the best known Hungarian doctor. He began his career in Vienna; it was here that he discovered the cause of puerperal fever, which was claiming the lives of many women in childbed at the time. His pioneering work in antiseptic procedures led to a dramatic decrease in the mortality rate among women who gave birth in hospitals that applied his measures. He left Vienna for the Medical Faculty of the Imperial and Royal University of Pest (now Semmelweis University), where he served as professor and director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology from 1855 to 1865. Semmelweis’s attempts to have his principles related to asepsis accepted by the medical community met with strong opposition; the significance of his work was only recognized after his death.
Detailed biography of Ignác Semmelweis (on the Friends of Semmelweis University website).
János Bókai (1822-1884) started working with Schoepf-Merei at the Poor Children’s Hospital as a medical student. Following his master’s emigration after the defeat of the Hungarian War of Independence, he took over as head of the institution. Though the hospital did not belong to the University at this time, it was here that the teaching of paediatrics took place. As part of János Balassa’s circle, Bókai played a role in the modernisation of the country’s health care system following the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867. In 1873, he became the first professor of paediatrics in Hungary. His introduction of serum therapy to Hungary contributed greatly to the decline in child mortality from diphtheria.
Detailed biography of János Bókai (on the Friends of Semmelweis University website).
József Fodor (1843-1901) is considered one of the founders of public health. He served as head of the University’s Department of Public Health from 1874 until his death. It was upon his suggestion that the institution of school doctors and health educators was introduced in 1885. Over the course of his internationally recognised career, he contributed a lot to the public health of Budapest, which was rapidly expanding into a metropolis at the time. This explains why, just eight years after his death, a statue was erected in the capital in his honour.
Detailed biography of József Fodor (on the Friends of Semmelweis University website).
Endre Hőgyes (1847-1906) is best known for introducing Pasteur’s vaccine against rabies to Hungary, and further developing the vaccine. Beginning his career at our University in 1870, he accepted a position in Kolozsvár (Cluj Napoca) four years later. Hőgyes returned to Budapest in 1883 to head the Department of General Pathology and Pharmacy. In 1890, he became the first director of the newly founded Pasteur Institute within the Faculty of Medicine. He is held up today as one of the Hungarian founders of experimental pathology.
Detailed biography of Endre Hőgyes (on the Friends of Semmelweis University website).
József Árkövy (1851-1922) was the first full professor of dentistry in Hungary. Although the subject had been taught at the University from the 18th century, it was under Árkövy’s direction that the first dental clinic was founded in 1890. The Association Stomatologique Internationale elected him honorary president for life, an indication of the esteem his colleagues held him in.
Detailed biography of József Árkövy (on the Friends of Semmelweis University website).
Mihály Lenhossék (1863-1937) is considered to be the first internationally renowned figure of Hungarian anatomy. Both his father and grandfather taught anatomy at the University, as well. The Nobel laureate Santiago Ramón y Cajal considered him a partner in laying the foundation for neuroscience. In addition to anatomy, Lenhossék was actively involved in cave research and prehistoric archeology.
Detailed biography of Mihály Lenhossék (on the Friends of Semmelweis University website).
Lajos Winkler (1863-1939) is one of the fathers of modern pharmacy education in Hungary. A student of Károly Than, he opened new doors in the field of analytical chemistry. Winkler’s iodometric titration method is considered to be a standard, while his method for determining iodine and bromine numbers continues to be widely used to this day. In 1964, a commemorative medal was established in his honour.
Detailed biography of Lajos Winkler (on the website of the Hungarian Intellectual Property Office)
Sándor Korányi (1866-1944) was an internist who achieved legendary status in his own lifetime. His father, Frigyes Korányi, had also been a professor of internal medicine at the University. Sándor Korányi conducted fundamental research on renal diseases, and was the one who initiated the BCG vaccine in Hungary in the 1920s. As professor, he established a new school of thought; his students included Rezső Bálint, Imre Haynal, and Géze Hetényi.
Ödön Krompecher (1870-1926) was a professor of pathology at the medical faculty in Budapest (now Semmelweis University), best known for describing the basal cell carcinoma. He wrote the majority of his significant works in German. In addition to his medical vocation, Krompecher also took an avid interest in philosophy and ornithology.
Detailed biography of Ödön Krompecher (on the Friends of Semmelweis University website).
Imre Haynal (1892-1979) was one of the most renowned internists of his time, just like his master, Sándor Korányi. The reverence accorded him was based not only on his professional expertise, but on the moral stand he took against the Communist dictatorship, as well. His scientific work focused primarily on cardiology and endocrinology. As professor, he was very influencial, creating a new school of thought. His significance is evident in the fact that the University of Medical Further Training took his name in 1993.
Detailed biography of Imre Haynal (on the Friends of Semmelweis University website).
Albert Szent-Györgyi (1893-1986) is the only Hungarian Nobel laureate who received the distinction for research conducted in Hungary. He earned his diploma at the medical faculty in Budapest (now Semmelweis University). After several years spent abroad doing research, he accepted a position at the University of Szeged’s Faculty of Medicine, where he worked from 1931 to 1945. It was here that he successfully isolated vitamin C from paprika. Szent-Györgyi returned to the University of Budapest’s Faculty of Medicine after the war, but emigrated to the USA in 1947 to escape the emerging Communist dictatorship.
Detailed biography of Albert Szent-Györgyi (Wikipedia)
Aladár Benzák (1901-1959) graduated from the University of Debrecen. He began his career at his alma mater, but accepted a position at the University of Budapest’s Faculty of Medicine (now Semmelweis University) in 1932, where he later became a professor of physiology. The primary focus of his research was on the physiology of metabolism, in which he attained internationally recognised results. He emigrated following the Communist takeover in 1948, eventually settling in Canada.
Detailed biography of Aladár Beznák (on the Friends of Semmelweis University website).
János Szentágothai (1912-1994), an anatomist and brain researcher, began his career in Budapest in 1936. He proved the validity of the Neuron Doctrine of Ramón y Cajal, Hiss and Lenhossék, decades before the development of the electron microscope. He was invited to the University of Pécs after the Second World War, returning to the now independent Budapest University of Medicine in 1963. Szentágothai’s neurohistological research attained international recognition primarily in the areas related to the spinal cord, the cerebellum, the thalamic nuclei, and the cortex. He played an active role in scientific and political life. In addition to his profession, Szentágothai was involved in history and the various arts (literature, music, painting), a true renaissance man. His textbook, first published in 1971, is still in use today.
Detailed biography of János Szentágothai (on the Friends of Semmelweis University website).
More biographies may be found on the Friends of Semmelweis University website.