Forró, Magdolna

(Zsámbok, 21th Augustus, 1904 – Evanston, Ill. 1993)

She studied physics in Budapest and Göttingen, Germany. Her wealthy family made it possible for her to complete her dissertation on measuring the dielectric constant on short-waves. In 1928 she earned her doctorate in physics, as first woman in Hungary.

She published the results of her researches in Göttingen in two more articles. Radio-frequency technique accompanied her in her following studies also. In 1930 she managed to start a new field of research in the contemporary Hungary: she established a cosmic ray laboratory mostly made of wood with the use of minimum quantity of metal at the Péter Pázmány University of Sciences. Web link

In a short period of time she had the Geiger-Müller tubes produced and she built the electronic devices. The measurements were started with engineer Jenő Barnóthy (1904-1994) – her future husband – and during these they made clear the roles of factors – mostly the role of the magnetic field of Earth – influencing the intensity of radiation. For the investigation of the hard part of radiation they needed a thick absorbing layer so she organized that she could accomplish measurements in a Hungarian mine. Establishing financial conditions was a significant job she performed.

Both she and her husband were teaching at the University also. During this time they revised the book Experimental Physics written by professor Tangl. So in the thirties and fourties a readable, general experimental physics textbook fully developed and optimal in size and content was available for student-teachers, medical and pharmacist students.

After the 2nd World War she took part in the reconstructing works of the destroyed Department of Physics with great energy. She wanted to continue her experiments connected with cosmic radiation.

In 1948 – after they were told that the condition of further work is the communist party membership – they left Hungary and settled in the United States. First she taught physics at the Barat College in Lake Forest, Illinois. In 1955 both Barnóthy's were asked to direct a company which manufactured radiological research instruments. Barnóthy became president of the Biomagnetic Research Foundation and director at the Forro Science Co. At the same time (1953-1959) Forró was also teaching physics at the University of Illinois.

By the cosmic radiation she specialized in astro- and nuclear physics and biomagnetism. Already in 1964 Dr. Madeleine Forró-Barnóthy predicted that the magnetic field will in due time develop into a powerful new analytic and therapeutic tool of medicine. She was editor of the two-volume book Biological Effects of Magnetic Fields (1964).

With his husband they were the authors of over 150 scientific papers. Their last scientific article concerning astronomy (What is Time?) was published in 1991, some years before her death. She was a member of numerous American and international scientific associations.

Selected bibliography: