Technikatörténeti szemle 19. (1992)

TANULMÁNYOK - Bartha, Lajos: In Memoriam Miklós Konkoly Thege (1842–1916)

LAJOS BARTHA* IN MEMÓRIÁM MIKLÓS KONKOLY THEGE (1842—1916) Miklós Konkoly Thege is an outstanding figure not only in 19th-century Hun­garian science, but also in European astronomy. He played a great role in the fo­undation of one of the youngest discipline in astronomy, astrophysics, in the design and building astrophysical instruments. In Hungary, it was Konkoly who established a new, modern observatory — himself covering all expenses — in or­der to promote astronomical research. As director of the meteorological institu­te, he raised the Hungarian research of weather onto international level. Since his youth he was interested in river navigation and railways. He was very much concerned with steamships and steam-engines. In addition, he was a talented composer and open to arts and photography. His activity had a major impact on the cultural life of Hungary on the turn of the century. In the second half of the 19th century Hungarian industry and economy ha­ve made a rapid progress: after the 1870s the rate of industrial development was the highest in Europe. This also involved advancements in education and scien­tific life. At that time several major scientific institutions were founded and aca­demic and technical societies thrived. This general cultural upswing the least affected astronomy. The well-equipped observatory of the Royal University of Pest (Budapest) on Gellért Hill was destroyed in 1849, during the siege of the Buda Castle. The university budget was insufficient for the construction of a new institute and there was no state fund available. At the Department of Geography of the University only basic concepts in astronomy were taught. Hungary was left without at astronomical obsrevatory in a period when spect­roscopy, photometry and photography opened up new vistas in astronomy. It is Miklós Konkony Thege's great merit that he built a new, modern observatory from his own sources and he himself also contributed to the development of ast­rophysics. Miklós Konkoly Thege, descending from a middle landowner family with con­siderable landed property in Komárom county, was born in Buda on 20th Janu­ary, 1842. He spend his childhood in the Ógyalla manor, owned by the family. (Ógyalla — today: Hurbanovo in Slovakia — lies 20 km north of Komárom and had 1500 inhabitants in the mid- 19th century.) He could play the piano and draw well as early as the age of 12—14 and also prepared models and an operating steam engine in his small workshop. In the school-year 1857/58 he studied physics, •1023 Budapest, Frankéi Leó út 36.