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Though most of my grandfather’s work is difficult to grasp by us everyday people:-) I did find a very interesting piece he wrote on the exactness of mathematics :“…I’ve completed the high school of mathematical exactness, and I see that exactness hasn’t got any limits.

There isn’t such a precise definition or theorem that couldn’t be found faults in by a more precise point of view; and not because of hair-splitting but with a thorough reason (because refusing a more precise point of view may lead to errors and false results).

That’s why I cannot comprehend dogmatically the precision of mathematics any more: the ones in this side aren’t precise, the ones on the other side are precise.

With this, of course, I’ve rejected the idea of mathematics as an «absolute true science».

I don’t say that I was forced to reject it, because I am convinced that the beautiful part of mathematics consists in wearing all the uncertainties of the human work.

Don’t get me wrong: a kind of precision exists for me too, however not in a static sense but in a dynamic one.

When I teach mathematics to somebody, he’s already standing at a certain degree of precision, maybe at a very low degree. He couldn’t get higher by the way that I call him idiot when he’s less precise; but I have to convince him that it’s worth coming up. Of course it’s worth only if he demands it. However, it doesn’t matter at all if one doesn’t have a demand on it; then we remain where we are…”

Source: Extract from László Kalmár’s letter to Miklós Szabó (Szeged, 19/2/1947) In: Kalmár László: Integrállevél. Matematikai írások, Gondolat, Budapest, 1986.]


My grandfather, László Kalmár was an exceptional person, a very talented mathematician. To us he was Nagyapo (grandfather) – that is how all of us called him at home.

I don’t have too many memories of him since he passed away in 1976 when I was only 7 years old.

I do have a few pictures in my mind, we used to have breakfasts together (we stayed right next door to where he lived with my grandmother), I remember him riding his bicycle to university and back.

He was very absent-minded – we used to joke about it – for example on rainy days he used to walk about on the corridors of the university with his umbrella open – as he forgot to close the umbrella after stepping inside the building. (I am not sure if this is true – but probably I am right).

Nagyapo normally was very busy with the science projects he was involved in. He was also lecturing at the university of Szeged, my home town. I remember sitting in the big lecture hall watching him explain complex mathematical formulas to the students. For me it was all so boring – as I was very young (not that later I was more interested in all those formulas – I was never really good at mathematics).

Trying to sum up the projects he was involved in – here is a quote from The MacTutor History of Mathematics archive :

“He founded at Szeged the first chair for the Foundations of Mathematics and Computer Science and then became the first to occupy the chair. This was not all he founded at Szeged, for he also set up the Cybernetic Laboratory and the Research Group for Mathematical Logic and Automata Theory.

…. He was acknowledged as the leader of Hungarian mathematical logic.

…. Kalmár was also involved in theoretical computer science and promoted the development of computer science and the use of computers in Hungary. His special fields of interest in computer science included programming languages, automatic error correction, non-numerical applications of computers and the connection between computer science and mathematical logic.”

The Wikipedia says :

“He is considered the founding father of both Logic and Theoretical Computer Science in Hungary.”

in 1996 – he was posthumously awarded the computer poineer award by IEEE Computer Society “For recognition as the developer of a 1956 logical machine and the design of the MIR computer in Hungary”

Very big words – an unbelievable life.

Surprisingly I never worked with computers while I was in Hungary. While most others in my family (especially the guys) were quite into computers – I was busy with music and languages.

I only started working with computers when I arrived in South Africa. We bought a PC because I wanted to use the Internet to keep in touch with family in Hungary.

That was 7 years ago. Since then I cannot get enough of it. It’s unbelievable what one can achieve with computers – it’s an amazingly versatile tool – especially when it comes to using it as a tool for global communication & collaboration.

So now that I am so interested in computers I will definitely spend time finding out all about my grandfather’s projects and also make sure that everyone else gets to learn about him and will get inspired to start their own mathematics related projects.