Hungarians at the University of Glasgow (1850–1950)

Hungarian students studying at Glasgow created a small, but steady group between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries.

During this period altogether twelve Hungarians could be found in the archival materials of the University, but not all could be researched in accordance with data protection. Due to the peculiarities of 20th century Hungarian history it was not possible to strictly categorize each person with a Hungarian name into the country association of Hungary. After the Trianon peace treaty of 1920, which finally ended World War I, two-thirds of the Kingdom of Hungary was divided among neighbouring countries, such as Romania or Czechoslovakia. To make things even more complicated, prior to and during the Second World War certain detached territories were returned to Hungary. For this reason we associated both Hungary and the given successor state to the people originally from a detached area.

There are certain patterns we can discover when summarising the different fields of study of these Hungarian students. More than half of them (7) came to Glasgow to study Theology. This also has historical reasons. During the early modern Habsburg-era (16th–18th centuries) Protestantism was undesirable and often punishable in Hungary, therefore prospective ministers of the Lutheran and Calvinist Churches had to go to North-Western Europe to study Protestant theology. Peregrination remained an important tradition of Protestant pastor training later on. This is illustrated most picturesquely by the itinerary of Koncz Sándor [Alexander Koncz], who attended such emblematic colleges of the Reformed Church as Sárospatak (Hungary), Basel (Switzerland) and Glasgow. It is the Calvinist foundation which links the Reformed Church of Hungary to its Scottish equivalent, the Church of Scotland. Presbyterianism had such a strong impact on Hungarian students that some of them, like Moody András [Andrew Moody] returned to Hungary as missionaries of the Free Church of Scotland to convert Jews to Christianity or as a result of this mission came to Glasgow and became Presbyterian ministers, like Saphir Adolf Áron [Adolph Aaron Saphir]. Along other novices, namely Gáti Sámuel, Czirjek Mihály, Patay Pál and Puskás Bajkó István, they enrolled to courses on the Old and New Testament, divinity, biblical criticism and church history under Professors such as George Milligan and Henry Reid.

Another characteristic, but much smaller group of Hungarians (3), studied Medical and Veterinary Sciences at Glasgow. Education of Medicine also has its fame throughout the world, their scientific discoveries in the subject area of Virology made the predecessor of the current College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences well-known. Most Hungarians, like Bacsich Pál [Paul Bacsich] and Beöthy Konrád [Conrad Beothy] came here to write their doctoral dissertation. The latter, as a forensic medical researcher, had a significant role in the identification of the so called “invisible of Mecsek”, a partisan group resisting the Soviet troops after the tragic 1956 revolution against Hungary’s Soviet occupation.

Finally, we can distinguish a couple of figures, who do not belong to the two major groups described above. Kenedi Róbert Maximilián [Robert Maximilian Kenedi] studied civil engineering and Ullmann István [Stephen Ullmann] studied Semantics and Romance Languages at the University. Although studying completely different subjects, they had a lot in common. Both were fleeing the effects of the Second World War and became British citizens; they acquired their doctoral degrees here and became renowned experts in their respective field of study.

As one can see a large variety of academic fields were covered by Hungarian nationals throughout a century, ranging from Theology to Medicine and from Humanities to Engineering. Hopefully the second century of documented Hungarian presence at Glasgow University holds a similarly colourful and prosperous era for both the University and Hungary and the entire globe!

By László Kövecses, MSc Russian, Central & East European Studies, Hungary, Club21


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