Return to Article Details Review of Pioneer Hungarian Women in Science and Education II

Pioneer Hungarian Women in Science and Education II
Eds. Réka M. Cristian and Anna Kérchy
Budapest, Hungary: Akadémiai Kiadó
244 pp.
ISBN: 978 963 454 928 4


Pioneer Hungarian Women in Science and Education II was conceived as a continuation of Pioneer Hungarian Women in Science and Education published in 2022 by the prestigious Hungarian publisher Akadémiai Kiadó, which published its second volume as well. Similar to the first one, this second volume comprises chapters that describe the outstanding lives and careers of significant pioneer Hungarian female scientists, educators and scholars. The main purpose of this book was to increase the visibility of Hungarian women scholars and in order to make this happen, the editors conceived the volume in English, with the aim of gaining a wider international readership. Réka M. Cristian and Anna Kérchy selected Hungarian women pioneers from a diversity of academic disciplines and compiled a list of twenty-two researchers from a spectrum of scientific fields including medicine, pharmacology, historiography, historical preservation, mathematics, biophysics, engineering, psychology, thanatology, philosophy, musicology, pedagogy and physical education.

Thanks to an excellent editorial idea, all chapters begin with a portrait of the scholar with many interesting persona data, a strategy which actually brings the figure of the scientists closer to readers. Moreover, the pictures and illustrations appearing on the pages of the book make the life and work of these unparalleled female scientists even more dynamic, while recommended further readings (listed as a useful supplement to the biographies at the end of the chapters) help those who would like to learn more about these women by directing them to links, articles and books that provide detailed information. In some cases, the authors of the volume also included a selected list of works by the discussed female scholar, which also benefits those who are interested in further research about these pioneer women.

The book is divided into two major sections: the first is entitled “Pioneer Hungarian Women in Science,” while the second is “Pioneer Hungarian Women in Education.” The first part presents the portraits of fifteen prominent Hungarian women in nine chapters. The first chapter, written by Éva Bruckner is about Erzsébet Légrády (1874–1959), the first Hungarian woman who earn a doctorate in this field of pharmacy and the founder of the Hungarian Pharmacological Society. Légrády was conducting advanced research in analytic and inorganic chemistry, opening her own pharmacy in Budapest in 1916. The second chapter also written by Bruckner is a survey on the life and work of the clinical pulmonologist Irén Barát (1890–1972), who dedicated her life for curing tuberculosis patients (with her own new method) as a head physician in the Erzsébet Sanatorium. In the next chapter Anna Borgos presents the life and career of Lilly Hajdu (1891–1960), Edit Gyömrői (1896–1987), Vilma Kovács (1879–1940), Alice Bálint (1898–1939) and Lillián Rotter (1896–1981). During the 1930s, all of these scientists were working in the Budapest school of psychoanalysis: Hajdu specialized in the psychoanalytic treatment of schizophrenia; Gyömrői was a practicing analyst, Kovács led her private practice publishing case studies and writings on psychoanalytic technique; Bálint conducted analysis and contributed to the object relations theory, especially on the primacy of the mother-infant relationship, while Rotter’s work focused primarily on psychoanalytical child psychology and pedagogy. The topic of the fourth chapter is the extraordinary life and career of Emma Bartoniek (1894–1957), written by Márta Font. Bartoniek was the first woman with a degree in historical science in Hungary; she worked as an archive librarian first and as a chief librarian for the National Széchényi Library in Budapest afterwards. In the following chapter of the book we can read about Mária Telkes (1900–1995) in a chapter authored by Soma Rédey. Telkes earned her degree and doctorate in physical chemistry. After moving to the United States, she researched the radiation of brain cells and the development of thermoelectric devices. She joined the Solar Energy Conservation project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and, in 1949 she presented the results of her research at one of the first environmental forums on the globe. Péter Gábor Szabó discusses the career of a mathematician, Eszter Klein (1910–2005). She had a glorious mind with the help of which she worked on The Happy End Problem. In 1939, she had to emigrate to China, fleeing with her husband from the Nazi regime. Later, they moved to Australia where they became well-known university professors. Amália Mozsolics’s (1910–1997), Erzsébet Patek’s (1918–1995) and Ida B. Kutzián’s (1918–2001) life and work is summarized in the chapter of Mária Bondár. Mozsolics, Patek and Kutzián were archeologists and the first women to receive university degrees in this field. Mozsolics worked for several Hungarian museums and she led excavations of treasures from the Bronze Age publishing various articles and monographs about the found relics. Patek also worked in different museums and controlled her own archeological research, while Kutzián had a significant career in the National Museum and the Research Institute of Archeology exploring new methods of archaeothanatology. The chapter of Anna Kérchy presents the trailblazer career of Alaine Polcz (1922–2007), a psychologist and thanatologist. Polcz was one of the founders of the Hungarian Hospice Movement, which institutionalized palliative care for the dying. In the following chapter of the first part of the book, Mária Joó explores the life and career of Ágnes Heller (1929–2019), a notable Hungarian philosopher. During the communist years, Heller earned a university position in Australia and wrote extensively on ethics, on the philosophy of history in particular and on modernity in general, being interested in the 2000s, mostly in Hungarian public affairs and domestic political issues.

As mentioned before, the second section of the book comprising seven chapters is dedicated to seven pioneer Hungarian women in the field of education. Katalin Kéri’s chapter concentrates on the figure and legacy of Antonina De Gerando (1845–1914), a prominent reformer of female education at high school and college levels. In a time when women’s education was seen mostly undesirable, she managed a girls’ school and founded and directed of another school for girls, where she elaborated her own reform ideas. She also had wonderful achievements as a translator of Hungarian literature into French and vice versa. In the next chapter, written by Zsófia Ágnes Kovács, readers are introduced to the life and work of the first promoter of women’s physical education in Hungary, Mrs. József Madzsar née Alice Jászi (1877–1935), who was also a pioneer of physiotherapy, a movement artist and choreographer. The following chapter of this part of the book is dedicated to the biography of Margit Révész Reisz (1885–1956) and was written by Adél Magyar. Révész was one of the first women, who received a medical degree in neurology in Budapest in 1908. She dealt with the special education of children with disabilities operationg her Special Educational Sanatorium and Forest School for Children in the Buda Hills. Béla Pukánszky’s chapter on the significant work of Erzsébet Dolch Dombrádi (1906–2002) is a survey on a less known pioneer woman, who established the foundations of reform pedagogy and implemented her ideas in practice in her Garden School in Szeged alongside her reform school in Újszeged. Margit Varró (1881–1978) is the topic of the chapter written by Yusuke Nakahara. Varró was an outstanding pianist and piano teacher, with music at the center of her pedagogy project. In this context, she developed a new teaching method, called “the auditive approach.” In another chapter, Ferenc Hörcher talks about the career of Margit Slachta (1884–1974), who founded the basics of Christian feminism in Hungary. She became the editor of the Christian Woman journal and she elected as the first female representative to the Hungarian Parliament in 1920. She was a prolific writer and presented her revolutionary ideas on Christian feminism in numerous writings. The topic of the last chapter of the book was written by Ágota Budai and concerns the life of Dorottya Kanizsai (cca. 1490 – 1532). Kanizsai dedicated her life to take care of war graves and established the founding principles of war-grave caretaking, which became a national duty after the historical battle of Mohács between the Kingdom of Hungary and the Ottoman Empire in 1526.

The lives and works of twenty-two pioneer Hungarian women in science and education collected as a birds-eye view in this book are fascinating, with chapters written in a friendly style that can accommodate large audiences indeed. The two elegantly published volumes presenting the figures of prominent Hungarian women fill in a gap not only in the history of Hungarian women but also in the field of the history of Hungarian sciences as well. Moreover, they make these important figures known for wider, English-speaking audiences. These volumes are a welcomed, timely project that will hopefully be continued with new figures enriching additional publications, by which more women and their achievements will be added to this existing list. And, what is more, the publication of this book was also useful because — as the editors expressed in the preface — these pioneer women can be role models for girls and other women in Hungary and abroad, who dream about becoming scholars and researchers.