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Hungary’s high achievers

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Hungarians are a talented and resourceful bunch, and they feature heavily in lists of internationally significant inventors, musicians, artists and sports stars.
Inventors
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 – 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.
Business
George Soros is a well-known Hungarian-American businessman, philanthropist and political activist.
Charles Simonyi is the former head of Microsoft’s application software group.
Music
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, also famously came up with a unique and radical way of teaching music to students.
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 (the folk singer who performed on the sound track of the film The English Patient).
Books, movies and photography
Imre Kertész Jewish author’s novel Fateless was based on his real experiences in a concentration camp – was a Nobel Prize winner in 2002.
Tony Curtis was born as 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 and went on to found 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 cinematographer and film director. He gained international recognition during his collaborations with István Szabó, namely by his film Mephisto, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1981.
Zsa Zsa Gabor made her film debut in 1952’s 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 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 a 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.
Ferenc Puskás was captain of the all-conquering 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 player in the women’s tennis game during 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 born Erik Weisz in Budapest.