Hungary's high achievers
Hungarians are a talented and resourceful bunch, and they feature heavily in lists of internationally significant inventors, musicians, artists and sports stars.
Albert Szent-Györgyi was the first to discover vitamin C, after extracting it from paprika, the zesty yellow peppers of Hungary.
Ede (Edward) Teller helped to develop the atomic bomb in the 1930s.
László József Bíró invented the ballpoint pen the most popular tool for everyday writing.
Ernő Rubik was the one who came up with the world's best-known toy or puzzle– the Magic Cube.
József Galamb designed the world's first affordable car, the Ford Model T.
János Irinyi was the mastermind behind safety matches.
Dennis Gabor is most notable for inventing holography for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1971.
John George Kemény is best known for co-developing the BASIC programming language in 1964.
John Von Neumann was a pioneer of the application of operator theory and quantum mechanics.
George Soros is a well-known Hungarian-American businessman, philanthropist and political activist.
Charles Simonyi is a former director of Microsoft's application software group.
Ferenc Liszt, the wild-haired 19th-century composer and pianist is one of the greats in the canon of classical music, and established a musical academy in Budapest.
Béla Bartók took inspiration from the traditional folk music of the country's villages for his compositions during the early 20th century.
Zoltán Kodály was similarly fascinated by folk songs and collected a huge number of them for posterity. He was also the inventor of a unique and radical way of teaching music to students. (the Relative Solfege method is the hand-signals-for-notes system you may have seen in the film "Close Encounters of the third kind")
George Szell was the Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra.
Márta Sebestyén is one of the many contemporary musicians who have left their mark on the cultural landscape (he was the folk singer who performed a memorable tune on the sound track of the film The English Patient).
Books, movies and photography
Joseph Pulitzer, a Hungarian-American publisher was the originator of the pulitzer prize, leaving money in his will to launch a Journalism school start the prize. It is administered by the University of Columbia in New York.
Tony Curtis was born Bernard Schwartz in New York as the son of Hungarian Jewish immigrants. Curtis played in more than a hundred movies: Some like it hot (1959), Spartacus (1960), Goodbye Charlie (1964) etc.
Jerry Seinfeld American comedian, actor and writer is the descendent of a Hungarian Jewish family. Aside from being a stand-up comedian, he is best known for playing a semi-fictional version of himself in the situation comedy Seinfeld (1989–1998).
Bela Lugosi was a Hungarian born American actor. Well known for playing Count Dracula in the Broadway play and the subsequent film version.
István Szabó is a successful director, responsible for films including Being Julia (for which Annette Bening was Oscar-nominated in 2004).
William Fox (or, rather, Vilmos Fried) started out in Hungary but ended up in Hollywood, as founder of the film studio 20th Century Fox.
Vilmos Zsigmond won the Academy Award for the best Cinematography for Steven Spielberg's film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Lajos Koltai is a Hungarian film director and cinematographer. He gained international repute during his collaborations with István Szabó, notably for his film Mephisto, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1981.
Zsa Zsa Gabor had her film debut in the 1952 film Lovely to Look at. She appeared in many films, made hundreds of television appearances and starred several plays on Broadway.
Joe Eszterhas is a Hungarian-American writer, best known for his work in the films Basic Instinct, Flashdance and Showgirls.
Andy Vajna is a film producer who has made numerous movies including the Rambo series, Die Hard with a Vengeance and multiple Terminator movies and series.
Robert Capa was perhaps the top 20th century combat photographer who covered five different wars and co-founded the prestigious Magnum Photos with Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Sports and entertainment
The country has a proud Olympic tradition, and has fared particularly well in the sports of water polo, fencing and pentathlon.
Judit Polgár can justly claim to be the greatest female chess player who ever lived. (achieved grandmaster status at the age of 15)
Ferenc Puskás was the captain of the formidable Hungarian soccer team of the 1950s and one of the brightest lights to grace a soccer field.
Monica Seles was the World's No. 1 women's tennis player of 1991 and 1992.
Mickey Hargitay became Mr. Universe in 1955 and he is also known as the father of actress Mariska Hargitay.
Harry Houdini, the renowned escape artist, was actually born Erik Weisz in Budapest, but named himself after the famous French conjurer Robert Houdin.