Universitas, Culture, Continuity

Universitas, Culture, Continuity HU
On 12 May 2023, the ELTE Senate held a festive general assembly to celebrate the 388th anniversary of the university’s establishment. The scientific lecture of Pázmány Day was delivered by Tamás Weiszburg, habilitated university associate professor at the Faculty of Science, followed by the ceremony of awarding the titles “doctor et professor honoris causa.”

The event was chaired by László Borhy, academician and rector of ELTE. The programme was featured by the choir of the ELTE Institute of Arts Communication and Music conducted by Ákos Erdős, habilitated associate professor.

Every year, the Pázmány-Day lecture is delivered by one of the ELTE professors with outstanding achievements in their own field of research. This year, the speaker of the series going back to 1991 was Tamás Weiszburg, habilitated associate professor at the Faculty of Science. The former head of the Department of Mineralogy, the ELTE Museum of Natural History, and the ELTE Geological Garden presented his lecture under the title “Universitas: The Continuity of Culture by the Example of Mineralogy.”

What makes the subject highly topical is the fact that ELTE will be celebrating the 250th anniversary of the institutional teaching of mineralogy and the 175th anniversary of the founding of the independent Department of Mineralogy in the following academic year. The university has continuously operated its Collection of Minerals since 1774. The collected items are unique relics of the history of science and the culture that developed around them over the last quarter of a millennium. A good example of this continuity is that the staff of the Faculty of Science completed their reconstruction work in the mineral collection of the Pannonhalma Abbey of national importance this spring. The 18th-century core of this collection was gathered by István Spaits, who was affiliated with the predecessor of ELTE.

As Tamás Weiszburg explained, the word ásvány (meaning ‘mineral’) is one of the 58 Hungarian words found in the eleventh-century founding charter of the Tihany Abbey, but it only received its current scientific meaning in the second half of the 18th century. At our university, the discipline was initially taught at the Faculty of Medicine. In the 20th century, physicians and pharmacists still had comprehensive examinations in it. However, from the mid-19th century onwards, it became part of the training of natural history teachers, and applications in geoscience and industry came into focus.

The scientific area bordering on solid-state physics and chemistry, which is now inseparable from large-instrumental analysis of materials, once again changed its area of influence before the 21st century. Currently, the study of mineralogy promotes development within the framework of material science, which is focused on designing new materials with special properties, as well as environmental science, which is fundamental for ecological sustainability, the mitigation of climate change, and the reduction of solid waste. Furthermore, it is also indispensable for the description of archaeological and art historical artefacts.

“Mineralogy represents a centuries-old, unique culture, a way of thinking and experience that is able to offer solutions to many of humanity’s current problems ranging from the millionth of a millimetre to hundreds of kilometres. Without the spirit and framework of the Universitas, this versatility could not have been realised,” concluded Tamás Weiszburg.

According to tradition, the lecturer was awarded the Jubilee Silver Commemorative Medal by the university.

Afterwards, the titles “doctor et professor honoris causa” were conferred. ELTE generally awards the title of an honorary doctorate to highly influential scholars who have had a fruitful relationship with the institution for several decades.

Martin Ahrens, professor at the Georg August Universität Göttingen, is an internationally renowned authority on civil law and civil procedure law. As he said in his acceptance speech, he has been in close contact with the ELTE Faculty of Law for almost a decade and a half. He has worked together with many researchers and professors from the university on various projects from holding conferences to organising exchange seminars. Over the years, this extensive cooperation in education and research gained immense importance not only in his profession but also in his private life, and he expressed his gratitude to our university for that.

Peter-Tobias Stoll, a recognised expert in international economic and environmental law, has long been a prominent lecturer in the German-language teaching of law at ELTE and is also an active supporter of the Faculty of Law in German-speaking countries. “I am happy to have had the possibility to take part in the academic life of ELTE for quite some time. In addition to teaching, we have also collaborated with the Department of International Law on several projects, and I could help with doctoral research and writing up Ph.D. theses on many occasions,” mentioned the professor from Göttingen when talking about his activities connected to ELTE. “I hope that the joint work will continue for a long time to the satisfaction of both parties,” he added.

Wilhelm Kühlmann, professor emeritus at the University of Heidelberg, is a prominent scholar in German literary science and the early modern literature and culture of Central Europe. After receiving the honorary doctorate, the scholar of exceptional erudition said words of thanks in Latin. He pointed out that Hungarian intellectuals have been studying in Heidelberg since the 16th century. He became part of this centuries-old tradition when he arrived in Budapest to teach at the university and started to support the ten-year partnership between ELTE and Heidelberg. “This tradition must be renewed again and again,” he emphasised.

Gian Vittorio Caprara is a world-renowned representative of personality psychology. The professor of La Sapienza University expressed his appreciation for being accepted among the professors of ELTE. “When a person experiences such a joy, he can think about nothing else than gratitude,” he said. “Success never belongs to ourselves alone, but we share it with all those who accompany us in our lives: our family and our colleagues. It is first and foremost them this time again, who deserve the recognition,” he concluded his speech.

László Lovász is an eminent scientist in discrete mathematics and computer science. “I feel honoured to be awarded by the university where so many world-famous scientists of our time graduated,” he said. “It was at Eötvös Loránd University that I came to love mathematics and learnt how to teach this discipline. With the knowledge I acquired here, I was able to succeed in all parts of the world, which filled me with strength. The atmosphere at the university was not always harmonious, but in recent decades the division has been overcome,” the ELTE professor expressed his joy.

According to tradition, the session concluded with the Trnava hymn. At the end of Pázmány Day, there was a concert and dance performance in the Aula Magna starting at 6 p.m. The audience could enjoy the performance of the ELTE ‘Eötvös’ Art Ensemble.