Károly Simonyi was a scholar-educator whose lectures, and the trilogy of his great books The Foundations of Electrical Engineering, The Physics of Electronics and Electromagnetic Theory founded an international invisible college in electrical and electronic engineering. His book The Cultural History of Physics bridges the gap between the two cultures, contributing to a new enlightenment.
Simonyi was born the seventh of ten children in a small village in Hungary. His talent for learning was apparent early on, and a prominent relative brought him to Budapest and sponsored his education. Simonyi went on to earn degrees in engineering and law.
After the tumultuous years of World War II, he returned to research, ultimately becoming a professor at the Budapest Technical University, where he was known as an outstanding teacher. He was a founding member of the Hungarian Physics Institute KFKI, and he organized the Department of Theoretical Electrical Engineering, taught generations of electrical engineers, and published lectures and textbooks that have been translated into many languages.
Despite his accomplishments, the political climate of 1960s Hungary was not a favorable one for Simonyi, and his work at the university was increasingly curtailed until he ultimately lost his teaching position altogether. But even this could not keep Simonyi from his work. Though his profession was science, he had always maintained an interest in the humanities, and in his new circumstances he undertook a great project: to tell the story of the history of physics and the cultural, philosophical, and societal movements that had shaped and been shaped by its development.
The Cultural History of Physics, the book that grew out of this project, published first in Hungarian, then in German, and now in English, has been highly successful and widely read.