Brúnó Straub F.
Nagyvárad, 5 January 1914 – Budapest, 15 February 1996
Biochemist with the Kossuth Prize awarded twice, academician, politician, Head of State
Director General of the BRC of the HAS („MTA”): 1970 - 1977
Director of the Institute of Enzimology of the BRC of the HAS („MTA”): 1978 – 1987
Biochemist and academician Brunó Straub F., founder of the Szeged Biological Research Centre of the HAS („MTA”), was born in Nagyvárad on 5 January 1914. He started his university studies in Szeged, first at the Faculty of Medicine and later at the Faculty of Natural Sciences. The lectures, personality and research related views of Albert Szent-Györgyi made a deep impression on him. He had the opportunity to work in the laboratory of the well-respected professor already as a student: it was there that he found the main direction of his later work and started to deal with the chemistry of cellular respiration, i.e. protein synthesis, and where he first studied muscle operation and enzymes. After the years required to obtain a doctoral degree in biochemistry, he obtained his Doctorate in the year 1936. He was appointed Assistant Lecturer at the Medical Chemistry Institute (1937-1944) and, after returning from his study visit to Cambridge (1937-1939), continued his work as a fellow researcher of Szent-Györgyi, then already a Nobel laureate. In 1941, Brunó Straub F. became a private university professor at the Faculty of Medicine of Szeged University. At the age of thirty-one, in 1945, he was appointed Director of the Medical Chemistry Institute of Szeged University and was later appointed Professor. After the war and his return home from American captivity, he was elected a corresponding member of the HAS in 1946 and a full member in 1949. In the meantime, his career in Szeged broke off: in the year 1949, he was appointed Head of the Medical Chemistry Department of Pázmány Péter University (later called Budapest Medical University and again renamed Semmelweis Medical University) and a public professor. First as a second job and later as his first job, he also worked as the Director of the Institute of Biochemistry of the HAS („MTA”), which had been integrated into the Szeged Biological Research Centre, founded during this period, between 1960 and 1978.
Brunó Straub F. also played a key role in science policy. For six years, he was elected Vice President of the Academy (1967-1973) and re-elected for the same position later (1985-1988). The scientist’s successful activities in public organisations and in lobbying for the establishment of a multi-unit basic research institute for ambitious cell and molecular biology experiments finally led to the foundation of the Institute in Szeged: he was appointed the first Director General of the Szeged Biological Research Centre of the HAS („MTA”) for the period between 1970 and 1978, whose first units started their operation in 1971 and which was ceremonially opened in the year 1973. For the years from 1978, Brunó Straub F. directed the Institute of Enzymology, which was the legal successor of the Budapest Enzymology Unit of the Institute of Biochemistry of the HAS („MTA”) and was organisationally integrated into the BRC. Meanwhile, he also actively worked in different international organisations. He was elected Vice President of the International Atomic Energy Agency, President of the International Federation of Scientific Unions and contributed to the making of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
Political activities formed a key part of the scientist’s career. He was a member of MKP (Hungarian Communist Party) until 1948 and, until 1956, the Party’s successor, MDP. From that time on, he was widely considered as a representative of scientific life working outside political party boundaries and became an independent MP as such. In the year 1988, he was elected the last President of the Council of Presidents of the People’s Republic of Hungary.
The work of Brunó Straub F. was recognised with numerous prizes and awards: he was awarded the Kossuth Prize on two occasions, in 1948 and in 1958, received the very honourable Academy Gold Medal and was also awarded with the Order of Banner of the People’s Republic of Hungary (“Magyar Népköztársaság Zászlórendje”). However, the city by the Tisza river, where his roots had been, was neither ungrateful: he was elected Honoris Causa Doctor of Szeged Medical University and his name is on the list of the honorary citizens of Szeged. He was also elected a member of a number of foreign academies and scientific societies.
After the expiry of his one-year appointment as President of the country, following Hungary’s political transformation, Brunó Straub F. withdrew from public and scientific life due to his deteriorating state of health. His exceptionally rich and successful life and career ended in 1996.
Main works of the scientist:
Biochemistry (Magyar Orvosi Könyvkiadó Társulat, 1949)
General Inorganic and Analytic Chemistry (Tankönyvkiadó Vállalat, Budapest, 1950)
Organic Chemistry (Tankönyvkiadó Vállalat, Budapest, 1951)
General and Inorganic Chemistry (Medicina kiadó, Budapest, 1958)