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The Hungarian Chemical Society - A Historical Survey



The Hungarian Chemical Society

A Historical Survey




Published in the Journal World of Nature, Special Chemical Issue, Volume 136, 2005 I.


The exact sciences of the 19 th century, which compose the basis of the Hungarian industry and technology, fell far behind the level of the industry and technical sciences of the western countries, even in the neighbouring Austria. Therefore, during the 1840s of the Reform Age a powerful movement started in order to popularize and develop sciences. To achieve this goal professional and social societies were formed to cultivate and expand the different branches of sciences. In the field of exact sciences the first professional society was the ”Royal Hungarian Society of Exact Sciences” (“Királyi Magyar Természettudományi Társulat“) formed upon the suggestion of  physicians Ferenc Bene and Pál Bugát in 1841. The Society as the most distinguished professional society of its time served the knowledge of sciences, among them chemistry and physics’ studies with  essay-competition papers, by organizing  lectures, then – from 1869 on – by publishing the Bulletin of Natural Sciences (Természettudományi Közlöny). By the end of the century the specialized branches of sciences had developed, the number of specialists increased, therefore independent specialized groups were formed within the Society. The ”Chemical-Mineralogical Section of the Society for Natural Sciences” (“Természettudományi Társulat chemiai-ásványtani szakosztálya”) was established under the chairmanship of Károly Than. As the first chemical society it launched the Hungarian Chemical Journal (Magyar Kémiai Folyóirat) in 1895. This journal is still being published today.

During the turn of the century our chemical industry had gained further strength,  approximately 200 chemical factories were in operation with about 20,000 workers. In 1904 their leaders – under the direction of  the manufacturer Ágoston Kohner, President and General Manager  of the Hungária Fertilizer, Sulphuric Acid, and Chemical Industry PLC (Hungaria Műtrágya-, Kénsav,- és Vegyipari Rt)  established the National Society of the Hungarian Chemical Manufacturers (Magyar Vegyészeti Gyárosok Országos Egyesülete). In  two years the Society launched its organ, "Chemical Papers” (Vegyészeti Lapok) (1906). In the Hungarian chemists’ life the year 1906 proved to be very important. In  January 1906, within the important organization of the engineers’ society, the Hungarian Society of Engineers and Architects (Magyar Mérnök- és Építész Egylet) an independent “chemical engineering section” was formed under the leadership of Tamás Kosutány, member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HAS) and director of the National Chemical Institute and Chemical Experimental Station (Országos Chemiai Intézet és Vegykisérleti Állomás). The same year in October the trade union of the chemical industry founded the National Confederation of Hungarian Chemical Workers (Magyar Vegyészeti Munkások Országos Szövetsége) for the representation of the employees.The confederation also launched a paper “Chemical Worker” (“Vegyészeti Munkás“).

The organizations of chemists were aptly characterized by the contemporary Gyula Halmi. First he mentions the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, which – according to Halmi – “operates in total seclusion from the world”. (It is known that before 1945 chemists did not have an organization of their own at the Academy, the chemist members of HAS were members of the “III/A Mathematics and Physics Subdivision). Though the Association of Exact Sciences (Természettudományi Társulat) cultivated the science of chemistry and literature, its activities did not go beyond that. In his own interest the National Society of Hungarian Chemical Manufacturers (Magyar Vegyészeti Gyárosok Országos Egyesülete) mainly dealt with the economic issues of the chemical industry. The chemical engineering section of the Hungarian Society of Engineers and Architects (Magyar Mérnök- és Építész-Egylet) only dealt with a part of the chemists. That is why, according to Gyula Halmi a society was needed which simultaneously served the progress of the science of chemistry and the aim of all chemists. (1).


The formation of the society



Professor Rudolf Fabinyi, the founding chairman of the Hungarian Chemical Society
Painting by János Krajna


A number of opinions similar to the above mentioned were voiced and more and more people urged the establishment of a scientific organization safeguarding the workers’ interests at the same time. Thus, when nearly a century ago, in June 1907 a group of chemists formed the “Hungarian Society of Chemists” (Magyar Chemikusok Egyesülete) (thereafter Hungarian Chemical Society /Magyar Kémikusok Egyesülete/ abbreviated as MKE) under the leadership of Rudolf Fabinyi, member of HAS, professor of chemistry at Kolozsvár University, a real social and professional demand was satisfied.

Rudolf Fabinyi studied at the University of Arts and Sciencies in Budapest where he acquired a teacher’s degree in chemistry and exact sciences, was conferred the degree of “Doctor of Philosophy”, afterwards was habilitated as an honorary lecturer in organic chemistry. During his study-tours abroad he worked with Wislicenus, Baeyer and Bunsen. When he returned home, in 1878 he was appointed public, regular teacher of theoretical and practical chemistry at József Ferenc University of Arts and Sciences in Kolozsvár. He edited the first chemical journal in Hungarian, the Chemical Papers (Vegytani lapok) (1882-1889). As a pioneer of organic chemistry in Hungary he mostly dealt with azarone type compounds. Fabinyi’s salicylic aldehyde reaction named after him was used for a long time. Fabinyi educated generations of students of chemistry at the university for 41 years. He was elected first a corresponding (1891), then an ordinary member (1915) of HAS. Several times he worked as rector or dean at the university in Kolozsvár. He took part in the leadership of a number of professional and social societies.


One of the early issues of  the society’s first journal


As to the question why Professor Rudolf Fabinyi was elected president by the chemists gathered in the assembly hall of the Civic Circle in the 5th District let us quote the words of Tibor Széki: “The generally acknowledged zeal, which charaterized Fabinyi and by which he gave a boost to all societies and associations in which he had been an active member, and the great respect he was surrounded by from all sides, prompted the members of the Hungarian Chemists’ Society (Magyar Chemikusok Egyesülete), established in 1907, to elect Rudolf Fabinyi president.” (2) The difficulties of the situation are shown by the fact that after electing the board of directors – vice-president: manufacturer Adolf Kohner, assistant presidents: chief chemist Sándor Kalecsinszky, university professor Gusztáv Buchböck, manufacturer Kornél Keleti, secretary-general engineer Ernő László, secretaries: chief-engineer chemist Zoltán Váradi and honorary university lecturer Tibor Széki -  statutes and other tasks were carried out very slowly and with great difficuty. Thus the first assembly, which was entitled to approve the statutes, was only held on March 28, 1909.

After this, MKE rented premises in a block of flats of the IVth District, at 14 – 16 Kossuth Lajos Street and the life of the society began. Increasing the social status of chemists, nurturing the professional spirit and improving the teaching of chemistry were among the goals. They raised their voice for the proper fee of the chemists; they dealt with the issue of accident insurance of chemists. They presented a petition to the government with social and provisional issues. They asked, for example, that chemistry teachers should be entitled to a full pension after 30-year of service. They often voiced the issues of safeguarding the interests of chemists. They did not accept that tariffs in state institute laboratories were different from those of the tariffs in private chemical laboratories, to the disadvantage of the latter. They were also involved in job  placement and, in order to strengthen the professional spirit, they introduced the so-called chemists’ day. At the club-like meetings lectures were held and exhibitons were organized.



At the 25th jubilee of the Hungarian Chemical Society
(In the middle Ignác Pfeifer managing director, Lajos Ilosvay hon.president, Dezső Pillitz secretary, 1932)


Perhaps the most successful means of the of the society’s work was their journal, launched in 1910 and named: “Journal of the Hungarian Chemists” (“Magyar Chemikusok Lapja”) – (abbreviated as: MChL). The journal, the official bulletin of the society was published twice a month and served, on the one hand, as a link among the members, on the other hand it ensured the training of the members in the country and the increase of their expertise. For example, between 1910 and 1914 MChL published 161 original papers and 380 reports on the progress of chemistry abroad. During the same period only 5 articles on chemistry and 6 reports were published in the Journal of the Society of Hungarian Engineers and Architects (Magyar Mérnök- és Építész-Egylet). MChL considerably contributed to the Society’s continuous increase in membership: at the formation of the society MKE had 45 members, during the chairmanship of Fabinyi by 1910 its number rose to 146 and, by 1913, it went up to 220 members. According to an estimate (Chemical Papers, v. 1910), during this time approximately 650 chemists worked in the country, out of which every third was a member of MKE.

The further development of the society was stopped by World War I. Most of the members joined the army, the funds of MKE invested in war-loans lost their value. The after-war  revolutions did not help society life either. Out of the leaders secretary-general Zoltán Váradi died on November 30, 1918, Professor Rudolf Fabinyi - after having to flee from Kolozsvár because of the Romanian occupation – passed away in Budapest on March 7 ,1920. Shortly afterwards the Journal of the Hungarian Chemists (Magyar Chemikusok Lapja) ceased to exist with the 13th volume. The peace dictate of Trianon put the whole Hungarian chemical industry into a critical position. The chemical industry lost 55% of its volume, and even in 1925 it only produced 6.2% of the reduced-size country’s total industrial production. Due to inflation, the bad economic situation, unemployment, etc. the chemists had no energy to continue their society life either.


Society boom

After the years of recession it counted as a milestone when retired university professor Ignác Pfeifer, director of the Tungsram Research Institute was elected president at the general assembly of MKE in 1926 alongside with the honorary presidents Lajos Ilosvay and Gusztáv Buchböck and nominal president Adolf Kohner. Ignác Pfeifer graduated from the Budapest Technical University as a chemical engineer. Later he became an assistant at the Faculty of Chemical Technology. For a few years he worked at the laboratory of MÁV (Hungarian State Railways), then in his own office of engineering. As successor of Vince Wartha he was appointed Professor and Head of Department of the Faculty of Chemical Technology of the Budapest Technical University in 1912. Due to his participation in left-wing movements he was forced to retire in the era of the counterrevolution. In 1922, upon the invitation of Lipót Aschner, he assumed the task of organizing the research laboratory of Egyesült Izzó RT  United Incandescent Lamps Share Company (Egyesült Izzó RT ) , which under his leadership enriched the vacuum industry with world famous inventions (wolfram incandescent filament light bulb, krypton lamp, etc.). His most outstanding scientific achievements are  the method of water softening (1894) and the Wartha-Pfeifer analytical method which is used to  determine the hardness of water. He carried out significant work in the field of heating and lighting technology as well. His success was due to his humane attitude and leadership style. When selecting his fellow workers he showed excellent knowledge of the human character. At Tungsram, for example, he was assisted by research scientists Pál Selényi and Imre Bródy. At MKE he was assisted by secretaries Pál Vidor and later Dezső Pillitz.

In the name of the new leadership Ignác Pfeifer issued a circular letter  in which he announced that MKE was putting an end to the forced suspension of the previous distressing years and  was re-starting an intensive society life. He summarized the tasks of the society as follows: “MKE wants to be a supporter of professional spirit, social life and professional movements. At the same time it wants to serve mainly the chemists, the chemical industry, the cultural life of the country and its economic interests.” He found  a new home for the society in the club room of the National Federation of Private Engineers (Magánmérnökök Országos Szövetsége) – (21, Vilmos Császár Street). Shortly afterwards (in 1927) they moved to the 1st floor of Andrássy Street No. 23, where they operated until the end of World War II. At the regularly held board sessions they worked out the direction and method of operation of the society. The idea of organizing sections came up as soon as 1927, which Pfeifer did not consider right at the time, as he had concerns  about the unity of the chemists which was unfolding with great difficulty.

In order to make his goals popular and also to make the work of the society known Pfeifer edited and published a journal. He ceased to publish the journal “Chemische Rundschau für Mitteleuropa und den Balkan” that mainly dealt with economic-professional problems and was launched by his predecessors. In 1930 he himself launched and edited the periodical “Technical Courier, Monthly Report of the Hungarian Chemical Society “(Technikai Kurír, A Magyar Kémikusok Egyesülete havi értesítője). The well edited journal recorded the events of a booming and bustling professional and social life that took place during the leadership of Pfeifer. Already in the first three years (1926-29) 31 scientific lectures were held – among others by such excellent lecturers as György Hevesi and Mihály Polányi. During the 30s, together with the great Hungarians Albert Szent-Györgyi, József Varga, László Zechmeister, etc. – thanks to Pfeifer’s international fame and relationships – notabilities from abroad also held lectures: Nobel Prize winner Irwing Langmuir, Wolfgang Ostwald and others. Pfeifer established contacts and worked out cooperation with foreign fellow societies: for example, in 1931,  300 members of the Verein Deutscher Chemiker and Deutsche Bunsen Gesellschaft were received in Budapest.

Pfeifer’s enthsusiastic and loving personality put its mark on the  society’s  life, and thus he created a very good and friendly, one could say, homely atmosphere. The lecture sessions, factory visits and assembly meetings were followed by company dinners. Dance-parties were often organized for family members, during carnival time these were combined with cabarets. In summer MKE became attractive by visits to the beach, fishing at the Megyeri csárda (tsarda) in Újpest. This was indicated by the increase in membership: the number of the members was 127 in 1927 ,by 1935 it rose to 503. Pfeifer put special emphasis on keeping up with traditions: e.g. the 80th birthday of Lajos Ilosvay, ’nestor’ of Hungarian chemists was celebrated (1931). Then, on April 10, 1932 a ceremonial assembly was organized followed by a gala dinner on the occcasion of the 25th anniversary of the existence of the society. Pfeifer’s excellent organizatory skills and his achievements were appreciated when in 1932 at the regular annual assembly of the society in he was elected president for life. (3).

As a consequence of the well-known historical events between 1938 and 1941 certain parts of Hungary – detached by the Trianon peace treaty - were re-annexed to the fatherland. Under the more and more aggressive pressure of Nazi Germany, in 1941 Hungary also entered the war. At this time Pfeifer was gravely ill and passed away on September 7, 1941. At the annual assembly for re-electing officials in 1941 Tibor Széki became president and Gyula Gróh managing president, both of them Professors of Chemistry at Péter Pázmány University of Sciences in Budapest. The position of general secretary  fell to honorary university professor Tibor-Erdey-Grúz. The life of the society continued but, due to the events of the war, only in a limited form. The journal of the society was re-launched under the title “Chemists’ Journal. Professional Chemical Journal and Bulletin of Hungarian Chemists” (“Kémikusok lapja. Vegyi szaklap és a Magyar Kémikusok közlönye”) and edited by Lajos Szahlender.



Tibor-Erdey-Grúz general-secretary and president of the Hungarian Chemical Society


The last relatively untroubled year of MKE was 1943. At one of the last academic lectures on November 25, 1943 in the framework of a ceremony the portraits of the establishing president Rudolf Fabinyi and the managing president for life Ignác Pfeifer – made by painter János Krajna – were displayed in the council hall of the society in Andrássy Street. Unfortunately the paintings were destroyed during the siege of Budapest. After the German occupation (March 19, 1944) the National Federation of the Hungarian Engineeers and Architects (Magyar Mérnökök és Építészek Nemzeti Szövetsége) moved to the premises of MKE. After the siege the premises were taken by the Free Trade Union of Chemical Workers (Vegyipari Munkások Szabad Szakszervezete). MKE survived the siege of Budapest without having premises of its own. The leaders used the institutional premises of the university which belonged to Gyula Gróh and Tibor-Erdey-Grúz (Budapest, VIIIth District, Eszterházy Street 11-13. Building F in Trefort Garden). At the first general assembly after the war on August 23, 1945 at the election of new officials Professor of Chemistry at Budapest Technical University Zoltán Csűrös became president, Tibor-Erdey-Grúz remained general-secretary. On account of cleaning up the debris and reconstruction, the life of the society started very slowly. And yet, the journal of the society, the Journal of Hungarian Chemists (Magyar Kémikusok Lapja)(abbreviated : MKL) which  exist even today day was published as soon as September 1946, edited by Tibor-Erdey-Grúz. MKL celebrated the 50th volume of its publication in 1995 (4).

Step by step the life of the society was re-established, scientific lectures continued. In 1947 László Zechmeister, who was visiting his homeland from America, gave an account of his “Stereochemical investigations of polyenes”. The re-start of social life was indicated by the lectures held at the university building in Trefort garden, followed by amicable beer drinking and dinner in the nearby garden of Sörkatakomba (Beer catacombs) in Eszterházy Street. 1948, the year of the turning point in social and political life brought changes in the life of the society as well.

The party-state decades

Modelled by the Soviet pattern the societies and associations of professionals specialized in sciences were transformed, so to say “nationalized”, and thus the Federation of Technical and Scientific Societies (Műszaki és Természettudományi Egyesületek Szövetsége) (abrreviation: MTESZ) was established. MKE also continued its activites as a member society of MTESZ. During the years of accession the board of officials was led by president Zoltán Csűrös, general-secretary and later president Tibor Erdey-Grúz. As managing editor Tibor Erdey-Grúz relaunched the journal of MKE, the Journal of Hungarian Chemists (Magyar Kémikusok Lapja) (1946). Then from 1949 on he edited the Hungarian Chemical Journal (Magyar Kémiai Folyóirat). Both journals have successfully been serving the Hungarian chemists with sources of information up to the present.

Tibor Erdey-Grúz (1902-1976) graduated from the University of Arts and Sciences in Budapest where he acquired a  Ph.D. in 1924, then he worked at the Chemical Institute No.III of the University. After returning from his study-tour abroad he was habilitated as an honorary lecturer (1934).In 1949 he became Professor and Head of Department of the Institute of Physical Chemistry and Radiology. In 1952-53 he was the Minister of Higher Education, then from 1953 to 1956 he was the Minister of Education. He was a corresponding member of HAS (1943), later an ordinary member (1948), Secretary of the Chemical Department of HAS (1947-48 and 1959-64), general-secretary of the Academy (1950-53, 1956-57, 1964-70) and president of the Academy from 1970 until his death. He was an outstanding scientist in the field of electrochemical research who played an important role in the work of MKE as well.

Tibor Erdey-Grúz summarized the influence of the party-state on the life of MKE as follows: ”In preparation and promotion of he big development of the chemical industry that followed  the liberation of the country our society had its own share.”

The evolving new political and social conditions, the start of the building of socialism have considerably increased the operational possibilities of the Society and added to its tasks. After its establishment MTESZ also received significant financial assistance from the state. “Our Society not only helped the scientific and technical development of chemists and the expansion of their horizon by organizing lecture sessions, club-parties, but today its 1700 members are organized in 12 sections and in a number of professional committees. Furthermore in five country groups it gives advice – after thorough discussion – to the lead organizations directing the industry” – said Tibor-Erdey-Grúz in his ceremonial address in honour of the 50-year existence of MKE in 1958. (5).

During the 50s presidents often changed but fortunately the post of the general- secretary was held by the same person, Miklós Preisich who carried out his task with extraordinary activity and great efficiency for three decades, until his death (1983). The board was assisted by three central organizations: the Technical Scientific Society (Műszaki Tudományos Társaság) led by Károly Polinszky, the Planned Economy Committee (Tervgazdálkodási Bizottság) led by László Bontó and the Committeee of Education (Oktatási Bizottság) led by Sándor Lengyel. At the same time the main scope of activities of the Society were the different sections. 8 sections operated as soon as 1952: 1.) Mineral oil; 2.) Organic and pharmaceutical industry; 3.) Plastic, varnish and rubber industry; 4.) Pedagogy; 5.) Analysis; 6.) Technology of organic chemistry; 7.) Technology of inorganic chemistry; 8.) Physical chemistry. In the course of years new sections were formed, the sections of Coal chemistry (1953), Biochemistry, and then Coloristics at the end of the year 1955, in the autumn of 1957 the section of Corrosion, followed by the section of Mechanical engineering for the chemical industry (1958) and, in 1959, by way of separation the sections of the Varnish industry and the Plastic industry.

The country groups were organized at the beginning of the 50s and groups were formed in Szeged, Debrecen, Veszprém and Győr, in the factories local groups (Chinoin 1951, Hungarian Chemical Works (Magyar Vegyi Művek) were formed. The result of the work carried out both in the groups and the sections are mainly shown at the yearly meetings and conferences. To enlist them would take several pages. The most important ones were the congresses for chemists organized by MKE for the different sections in different cities: the first and second one  in Budapest (1951, 1955); the first conference of organic chemistry in Szeged (1953); in Debrecen (1953),  the first analytical conference and the conference of organic chemistry,) etc.

The conferences organized by MKE gave a worthy representation of the development and high level chemical science in Hungary, which for a long time was of a higher degree than that of the development of the Hungarian chemical industry. Here are some examples to justify our statement: For example, in the development, which started at the beginning of the 20th century, in 1913, the production of the chemical industry compared to the overall production of the Hungarian industry was 6.7%. Between the two World Wars, influenced by the prosperity prior to World War II, the production of the chemical industry in 1918 reached 9.7% of the overall industrial production. During the introductory period of the so called  planned economy, which was launched by the party-state after 1948, the production of the chemical industry in 1955 was only 5.6% of the production of the whole Hungarian manufacturing industry.That is, it represented a smaller share than in 1938.

The resolutions of the leadership of the party-state wanted to put an end to the backwardness and serve development; for example, by the resolution of 1960 on the significant development of the chemical industry, the introduction of the new economic mechanism in 1968, furthermore the programmes of different conceptions (petrol chemisty, medicine, pesticides, production of intermediates, etc). By re-organizing the chemical industry (trusts, etc.) and together with other voluntaristic post-haste they  attempted to get out of trouble by involving MKE experts as well. Besides, owing to creating new premises for companies within the chemical industry, the expansion of production increased the number of employees and workers, this way the membership of MKE considerably increases, too. The development is demonstrated by some characteristic data of the Society.

The dramatic events of the Revolution and War of Independence of 1956 also affected the membership of MKE, several of the leaders left the country. The so far frequently changing presidents then were followed by excellent ones who held the post for long periods of time: member of HAS and Kossuth-Prize laureate Géza Schay, Professor and Head of the Departament of Physical Chemistry at the Technical University from 1958 to 1972; Kossuth-Prize laureate chemical engineer Barna Mezey, general manager of Chinoin Pharmaceutical Works from 1972 to 1981; chemical engineer and member of HAS János Inczédy, Professor and Head of the Department of Analytical Chemistry at Veszprém University of the Chemical Industry from 1981 to 1989. After the death of Miklós Preisich the position of general-secretary was held by Gábor Náray-Szabó (1983-1990).

Under the permanent and consistent leadership MKE continued to develop further, new sections were formed (Computer technology and Cybernetics, 1975; Environmental Protection, 1975; Protection of Objects d’Art 1983; Chemical Safety Technology 1983; Marketing and Prognostics; History of Chemistry and Chemical Industry). Younger people were also given posts in the main organs, which resulted in the  the strengthening of the Society. With the detente of the international situation relationships with foreign countries were extended. Thus secretary-general Miklós Preisich organized meetings with the secretaries of the fellow societies of the neighbouring countries. On the basis of this initiation the Federation of European Chemical Societies – FECS (Európai Kémikus Egyesületek Szövetsége) was established, in which Hungarian chemists have been holding leading positions up to this day. Besides FECS, MKE became a member of the European Federation of Chemical Engineers (EFCE) (Európai Vegyészmérnökök Szövetsége) and of other international organizations.

The 50th anniversary of the foundation of MKE was celebrated by a chemical conference (1958). The 75th year of its operation was marked by a ceremony on March 19th 1982 where the Society’s route, travelled so far was commemorated. Changes started from the middle of the 80s, in which MKE tried to help with different programmes, round table-discussions, etc.The  Society for example worked out a study “The Long-Range Prospects of Chemistry in Hungary” (“A kémia távlatai Magyarországon”), in which the directions of development were determined. The demand for active participation concerning the protection of the environment, then suggestions as to changes in scientific assessment were also initiated by MKE (1989).


After the change of regime

Influenced by the economic and social changes that had happened in the Soviet Union (Gorbacsov 1990-91) a change of regime occurred in Hungary as well. At the general assembly on May, 28 1990 the elected new president, chemist Gábor Náray-Szabó, member of the Academy, professor of the Eötvös Loránd University of Sciences (ELTE) and, at the same time, president of MTESZ emphasized that “the future of the Society can be seen in authentic experts’ activities independent of daily politics and ensuring the flow of information among professionals” (6). In 1995 the Staff-board Electing Session of the Society re-elected president Gábor Náray-Szabó. However, as in 1996 Gábor Náray-Szabó was elected vice general- secretary of HAS, the former vice-chairman, chemist Alajos Kálmán, member of HAS, Professor and head Head of the Section of X-ray Diffraction at the Chemical Research Centre (Kémiai Kutató Központ) took over the direction of MKE as managing president (7), whereafter the assembly of delegates confirmed him president with full authority. In 1999 and 2003 the board electing assembly entrusted Alajos Kálmán again with the direction of the society. His work is assisted by two vice-presidents, the general-secretary as well as by the two deputies of the latter, plus an executive committee of 8 members that meets monthly.

The economic situation of MKE – as an independent legal entity – has changed similarly to other scientific societies. In the last couple of years state subsidies were totally stopped. The financial background of the Society is ensured by profitable programmes, by the aid of the chemical industry, competitions and other activities besides the membership fee (the latter amounts merely to about 3% of the budget).

After the change of the regime the task of MKE also changed fundamentally. The chemical industry was re-structured, the big chemical factories, firms ceased to exist or were transformed, this brought changes in the form of the support system as well. The number of the individually paying members has significantly decreased. The decrease of the number of members indicated in the Table can be explained mainly by the fact that the new leadership included only the regularly paying individuals in the of membership number.

Instead of the former lecture sessions, seminars, symposia and conferences became preferable, since these are supported by different companies  as well. Information exchange is preferred to prelecting.


The development of the Hungarian Chemical Society in numbers

Name 1952 1976 1980 1990 2004
Membership number 1360 4800 6630 5250 2022
Section number 8 18 18 26 30*
Regional group’s number 4 15 15 17 19**

* Including specialized groups and societies
** Including factory groups


At present 11 societes, 19 sections and within these 35 subdivisions plus the Pensioners’ Circle work actively within the framework of the Society. (It has to be noted that the specialized groups and the societies work within the framework of specialized sections dependent on the situation of the given  scientific field.)

There are 9 regional groups (Bács-Kiskun, Baranya, Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén, Csongrád, Hajdú-Bihar, Heves, Vas, Veszprém, Zala county groups). At present factory groups work at 10 premises, namely at the following companies: the BorsodChem Share Company, Chinoin Share Company, Egis Lacta, Egis Share Company, University of Miskolc, MOL Share Company, MÜKKI, Nitrogen Works Share Company, Richter Gedeon Share Company, TVK Share Company.

The regional and factory groups have a very important role. They present opportunities for the local chemists to meet, they take part in solving the chemical problems of factories and also in the training of chemists.

Besides professional groups permanent committees of Technology and Science, International Relationships and Education are active, too.

The majority of the society’s activities is carried out within the specialized sections or specialized groups. Programmes organized in smaller circles seem to be more efficient than the so-called big society functions. The Conference of chemists is organized once a year. It covers a vaster field and is a forum for Hungarian chemists to meet. Besides these there are big conferences as well which are organized by MKE as commissioned by international specialized federations.

MKE has representatives in several international federations,  in some with a leading role as well.

Within its limits MKE supports the participation of its active members at conferences abroad.The society makes it possible for 5-10 people to travel abroad yearly.

MKE edits three journals. The Journal of Hungarian Chemists (Magyar Kémikusok Lapja) is the official journal of the Society and addresses everybody in a comprehensive way. It covers the whole field of chemistry (industry, research, university), announces news, gives information, it is of magazine character, at the same time it mainly publishes short review articles. The Hungarian Chemical Journal (Magyar Kémiai Folyóirat) is the only chemical journal in Hungarian that publishes original studies. The main task of the journal with its Volume 111th is to improve the Hungarian chemical language. During the last years of re-organizations it took over the publication tasks of the Chemical Department of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The editing of the Secondary School Chemical Journal (Középiskolai Kémiai Lapok) (KÖKÉL) is also carried out within the framework of the society. The journal with its thirty-year-history is the means of education of new chemical generations, thus it is of great significance.




Afiliated syndicate session in Tiszaújváros december 11, 2004. Sitting: Endre Banai (deputy general-secretary), Alajos Kálmán (president), Gyula Körtvélyessy (general-secretary),Beáta Androsits (managing director). Standing: László Velke, István Greiner (vice-president),Tamás Kiss (deputy general- secretary), József Bakos, János Bognár (seceretary of the economc comittee), Géza Bíró (chairman of the supervisory board), György Kalaus, György Liptay (vice-president). Missing from the picture: Attila Kovács, Péter Tömpe, Ggyula Zárai


All three journals are only able to survive with  external support, but their publication is essential. It is to be remarked here that during the last few years MKE and HAS obtained a partial ownership in some European professional journals and the  money received from these are partly used to finance the journals published in Hungarian.

MKE can only realize its goals and tasks, because it has had  and has members who, by their professional work, and their activities in societies and communities have made the life of the Society bustling. Since 1955 the Thán Károly Medal the most prominent award of the Society  has already been presented to 67 persons:

1957 Dr. Károly Magyar, 1958 Dr. Tibor Erdey-Grúz, Dr. Miklós Preisich, 1959 Dr. József Szőke, 1960 Gábor Szekeres, 1961 Dr. Károly Nikolics, 1962 Dr. László Bontó, 1963 Dr. László Mázor, 1964 Dr. Andor Lőrinc, 1965 Dr. Ernő Pungor, 1966 Dr. Endre Vámos, 1967 Dr. Mihály Gerendás, 1968 Dr. Károly Nagy, 1969 János Balassa, 1970 Dr. László Erdey, awarded posthumously, 1971 Dr. László Péchy, 1972 Dr. Dezső Hevér, 1973 Gyula Horváth, 1974 Dr. Jenő Zányi, 1975 Dr. Ervin Kindl, 1976 Dr. Béla Matkovics, Dr. László Maros, 1977 Dr. János Inczédy, 1978 Dr. Áron Jakabos, Dr. Elvira Kugler, 1979 Györgyné Szepesváry, 1980 Dr. Dezső Küttel, 1981 Dr. György Várnai, 1982 Dr. Istvánné Tury, Dr. György Korányi, Gyula Szilágyi, 1983 Dr. László Szepesy, 1984 Géza Tokár, Dr. Dezső Szabó, 1985 Dr. György Liptay, Dr. Aladárné Pálfalvy, Dr. Endre Bodor, 1986 Dr. Géza Hegyaljai Kiss, 1987 Dr. László Paksy, 1988 Dr. Gyula Nagypataki, Tibor Papp, 1989 Dr. István Fodor, Dr. Emilné Maleczky, 1990 Dr. János Dobó, D.r Lajos Kovács, Béla Péceli, 1991 Dr. Endre Banai, 1992 Dr. Géza Frendl, György Gálosi, 1993 Dr. Miklósné Almási, 1994 Dr. Sándor Görög, Dr. Jenő Morgós, 1995 László Dobó, Dr. András Edelényi, 1996 Dr. Gyula Körtvélyessy, 1997 Dr. Gábor Náray-Szabó, Dr. Gábor Bernáth, 1998 Dr. Ervinné Babóczky, Dr. Ottó Gimesi, 1999 Dr. László Harsányi, Dr. Ferenc Horkai, 2000 Dr. Károly Németh, 2001 Csaba Cséfalvay, Dr. Huba Kalász, 2002 Dr. József Reiter, 2003 Dr. Pál Hencsei, 2004 Zoltán Bordás, 2004  Éva Fazekasné dr. Berényi, 2005 Dr. Ferenc Fülöp and Dr. Péter Mátyus.


Since 1955 the Society awarded the WarthaVince Medal to 70 members of the society for their distinguished work in chemical engineering. Since 1968, 40 people were awarded the Pfeifer Ignác Medal for their prominent work carried out for decades in the chemical industry. Alongside with this and with the publications appearing in MKL the Society supports R&D and innovation in Hungary as well.

MKE founded the Preisch Miklós Award in 1994, which was awarded to 38 people for outstanding society and professional activities.

The Náray-Szabó István Scientific Award for prominent long-term scientific activity was also founded in 1994 by MKE. 11 people were awarded this prize.

Besides the enlisted awards (the finacing of which is carried out by MKE) the Society is also interested in granting two other awards. The Zemplén Géza Award is granted yearly together with the Chemical Department of HAS. So far 23 main awards and 28 awards for young scientists have been presented. The Szent-Györgyi Albert Award is maintained together with TIT to award students and their teachers who successfully participated in the Students’ Olympics. Until now 86 students and 44 teachers were recognized by this award.

MKE considers it very important for young people to join the work of the society. The society regularly awards the students with the best university thesis and grants them one year of free membership besides sending them the journal of the society.


Current Tasks

As it was already mentioned above the scientific social societies are undergoing transformation. A structure has to be built in which the economic situation of MKE and  its future is ensured in the long run. The near future will decide how much MTESZ is viable, how much it is able to coordinate the scientific societies.

The current task is to summarize the experience of the last 100 years, to process it in a way that the centenary of the Society could be commemorated with dignity. We have to achieve that, similarly to some western chemical societies, to be a member of the Society is  acknowledged as a rank. 




1. Gy. Halmi: Chemical Papers. 2, 28 (1907)
2. T. Széki: Chemists’ Journal. 5, 5 (1944)
3. L. Móra: Life and Work of  Ignác Pfeifer. Nimdok, Bp., 1977, 290 p.
4. L. Móra –G. Szekeres: The Journal of Hungarian Chemists. 50, 153 (1955)
5. T. Erdey-Grúz: The Journal of Hungarian Chemists. 13, 157 (1958)
6. G. Náray-Szabó: The Journal of Hungarian Chemists. 45, 332 (1990)
7. L. Móra: The Journal of Hungarian Chemists. 52, 221 (1997)



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