Lánczos, Kornél

(Székesfehérvár, February 2nd, 1893 – Budapest, June 25th, 1974)

Lánczos, Kornél

Lánczos studied mathematics and physics at the University of Science, Web link in Budapest where he also attended the lectures of Lóránd Eötvös and, then, he became an assistant professor at the Technical University Web link of Budapest.

At that time, he was interested primarily in how to interpret Maxwell's laws of magnetic fields from the new findings that appearing in the space-time geometry of the special relativity theory - e.g. the non-Euclidean structure of space and time. In his doctorate thesis, he demonstrated how to connect Maxwell's equations with the criteria of differentiability in the theory of functions of hypercomplex numbers introduced in the proper role - i.e. numbers composed of four instead of two components, the so-called quaternions.

Having obtained his doctorate, he emigrated and worked in Frankfurt and, then, in Berlin. He got into close contact with Einstein and the work connection that deepened between them to friendship in the course of time remained until the death of Einstein (1955). The interconnection between Lánczos and the general relativity theory is one of Lánczos' pronounced scientific characteristics. The fact that Lánczos and quantum mechanics were interconnected gives evidence of his sensitivity to important problems.

Lánczos, who later went to America, taught quantum-mechanics at Purdue University Web link (Lafayette, Indiana, USA) first (1931) and, then, he participated in the education of aircraft engineers and in research. In 1943 and 1944, he was employed by the American National Bureau of Standards Web link and, between 1946 and 1949, he worked in Seattle as a researcher for Boeing. During that time, he systematised his experiences gained in the field of theory and practice relating to computing technology (prior to the appearance of computers). This resulted in his monograph entitled "Applied analysis" which, among others, describes the so-called Lánczos-algorithm (a faster method of summing infinite series and solving transcendent equations) and presents procedures to handle large-size matrices. His results proved to be of great importance even for modern computing technology.

During the last period of his life, he worked in Ireland at the Dublin Institute of Advances Studies. Web link

He summarised his experiences in a number of world-famous books (Applied Analysis; Theory and Application of Fourier Series; Theory of Linear Differential Operators; "Numbers everywhere"; Variation Principles of Mechanics (1949); Einstein and the Cosmic Universal Order (1965), The Development of the Geometric Space Concept; Einstein's Decade: 1905 to 1915.

In his last years, he returned to Hungary, his home country, several times. He was received with high respect; the Roland Eötvös Physical Society Web link adopted him as an honorary member. A certain number of his books and studies were also published in Hungarian.