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Farkas Bolyai

Farkas Bolyai was born in Bólya, Sibiu County on 9th February 1775, to a lower nobility family. He started his studies at Calvinist College of Aiud (Nagyenyed). Due to his advancement in mathematics and languages he was considered a child prodigy.


His secondary school studies were carried out in Cluj-Napoca (Kolozsvár), after that a student of mathematics at the University of Göttingen. Here Farkas Bolyai became good friends with the famous mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss. After his studies he settles in Cluj-Napoca, marries and his son János Bolyai is born on 5th December 1802. The Calvinist College of Târgu-Mureș offers Farkas a position, which he has taken starting with 4th May 1804. He teaches at the College for 47 years, not only mathematics, but physics, chemistry and astronomy as well. (Today this school bears his name)


Though he was a polymath, his primary field of work was mathematics. His first papers dealt with topics concerning the parallel lines. On 9th March 1832 the Hungarian Scientific Society makes him a corresponding member. Farkas’ main work is called Tentamen (Târgu-Mureș, 1832), which comprises his theories on several basic mathematical topics, while his results are ahead of his time. This work was also intended as a textbook for his students. Farkas Bolyai was an excellent teacher, who also was concerned with the reformation of education and a more rational organisation of the syllabus, in his studies also suggesting the solutions for this issue.


Farkas Bolyai showed a great interest in practical matters as well: he devised a highly efficient stove; the model rapidly became popular throughout Transylvania. He was the author of the first Hungarian book on forestry. Among his manuscripts, we can find works on optics, building plans for bridges and pharmaceutical recipes too.

He had an artistic streak in him as well: he painted, played the violin, wrote treatises on the theory of music, what’s more, he tried his hand at acting too when he was young. He wrote poems and plays (Öt szomorújáték-Five tragedies, Sibiu, 1817, A párizsi per – The Paris trial, Marosvásárhely, 1818.) and translated French, English and German literature. He tried his hand at acting too when he was young.

He died in Marosvásárhely, on 20 November, 1856. He rests in the Marosvásárhely Protestant cemetery.    


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