Mathematical and Physical Journal for Secondary Schools

In 1994 the journal with Hungarian title Középiskolai Matematikai Lapok, which translated into English is the Mathematical and Physical Journal for Secondary Schools, celebrated 100 years of publication. To mark the occasion the Journal brought out a special issue in English with articles about the Journal and its influence on mathematics and mathematicians in Hungary. These words come from the reverse side of the front cover:-

KöMaL is the popular abbreviation of our journal presently celebrating its 100th birthday. During these years, several generations of mathematicians and other scientists developed their problem-solving skills through KöMaL, which is primarily a problem-solving journal. It appears ten times a year in a total of 480 pages, of which 320 are devoted to mathematics and 160 to physics.

We now give the Preface to the issue, written by Ákos Császár, Honorary President of the János Bolyai Mathematical Society and George Marx Honorary President of the Loránd Eötvös Physical Society:-


In 1885 a small group of Hungarian mathematicians and physicists started holding regular meetings at a restaurant near the University in Budapest. Here they heard the latest news in science and learned about each other's research, thereby encouraging scientific activity in Hungary.

In 1890, Loránd (Roland) Eötvös, professor of physics, mailed an invitation to his lecture on Terrestrial Gravitation and its Measurement. His message referred to further goals: "Dear Gentlemen! We hope that by meeting here we are about to take the first step towards assembling again and again with a similar purpose and get into even closer contact. With full respect, yours sincerely, Baron Roland Eötvös."

In 1891, the Mathematical and Physical Society was established. Referring to the society, Eötvös wrote: "[The goal of our meetings is] the further development of science by the spoken word, and the publication in a journal of all results worth the attention of the experts. This does not seem to be more than the goal of the study groups of the students. Still, in this case, we give it the attention it deserves, and our work will have merit for fulfilling an important need. If we succeed in making every Hungarian teacher of mathematics and physics a real mathematician and physicist, then we not only serve the schools, but we raise the level of science in our country. Carrying out the task of self-education with dedication and seriousness has the further result that, in the future, new researchers and scientists arise out of our group. I hereby declare the Mathematical and Physical Society founded."

The first president of the new society was Loránd (Roland) Eötvös, rector of the Budapest University of Sciences. The vice-presidents were Gyula König (Julius König), the Rector of the Technical University (an excellent developer of mathematical analysis) and ágoston Schmidt (a secondary school teacher). The initial members numbered 300. (Now both the János Bolyai Mathematical Society and the Roland Eötvös Physical Society consider themselves offspring of this society.)

The year 1894 was important in the history of Hungarian science and education. A school teacher named Dániel Arany, started editing the Középiskolai Matematikai Lapok, a mathematical problem solving journal for secondary school students. This was the second journal of its type in Europe preceded only by Vuibert's Joumal de mathématiques élémentaires, started in France in 1876. Each issue of the Középiskolai Matematikai Lapok contained a number of selected exercises from mathematics and shortly thereafter from physics, as well as solutions to past months' problems and a list of those pupils who sent in correct solutions. Now the Középiskolai Matematikai és Fizikai Lapok is redacted by the János Bolyai Mathematical Society and the Roland Eötvös Physical Society in 7000 copies per month. It regularly prints the best solutions of the students and the names of the best problems solvers. One can find the names of famous scientists like Lipót Fejér, Tódor (Theodore von) Kámán, George Pólya, Frigyes Riesz, Marcel Riesz, Gábor Szegó, Pál (Paul) Erdös, on the list of successful students.

In 1894, the new society decided to organize for the first time a mathematical competition for students just finishing high-school. In 1916, the mathematical competition was augmented by a physics competition. With the exception of a few small gaps during the world wars, the competition was held every year. Since then for one hundred years these competitions enjoy great respect. They bring fame (and university admission) to the winning students, and fame to their teachers and schools as well.

These competitions were the place where many (later) famous mathematicians and physicists had their first success; in mathematics, they included L Fejér (1897), T Kámán (1898), M Riesz (1904), G Szegó (1912), E Teller (1925), and László Tisza (1915); in physics, Leó Szilárd (1916), and E Teller (1925). Among the winners of the József Kürschák Mathematics Student Competitions and the Roland Eötvös Physics Student Competitions one can find the names of internationally renowned mathematicians and physicists even in our days.

Both the competitions and the journal have, during the one hundred years of their history, played an important role in discovering talented boys and girls. Anyone who analysing the source of success of mathematicians and physicists of Hungarian origin in our century is compelled to emphasize the role of these two organizations.

The end of the 19th century saw rapid development of mathematics and physics worldwide as well as in Hungary. Loránd (Roland) Eötvös organized the first Teacher Seminar in 1895 for the training of physics teachers, from all over the country. Since then, the close contact between active researchers, university professors, and school teachers has been a significant goal for both societies. (Professor Rudolf Ortvay introduced the most active school teachers in this way to quantum mechanics already in 1930.)

Since those years, the stormy 20th century has passed by, but Eötvös's dream was realized: the two societies have served education, research, and progress without interruption. This centennial offers us an opportunity to introduce our societies to you.

Ákos Császár
Honorary President of the
János Bolyai Mathematical Society

George Marx
Honorary President of the
Roland Eötvös Physical Society

JOC/EFR March 2006

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