Sámuel Brassai

Article

July 6, 2022

Sámuel Brassai (Torockószentgyörgy, June 15, 1797 or February 13, 1800 - Cluj, June 24, 1897) linguist, philosopher, naturalist, the "last Transylvanian polymath", member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He also dealt with geography, history, statistics and economics, theoretical issues of music, aesthetics and art criticism. He was the initiator and promoter of many reforms in education; he contributed to the popularization of the scientific results of his time. He is known as the one who knew ten languages, studied ten disciplines and lived 10x10, i.e. one hundred years.

His family

His grandfather, a carpenter named Welmes from a wealthy Saxon family from Brasov, settled in Torocko, where the place of his origin was called Brassai. His son, the father of Sámuel Brassai, who wrote his name as W. Sámuel Brassai, was a Unitarian pastor from Torockószentgyörgy, later Szentmihályfalvi, known for his great education, who walked to Torda as often as he wanted to borrow books from the school library. His mother was the daughter of Gergely Koncz, a Unitarian pastor from Torockószentgyörgy called Krisztina; both parents are tall and thin.

His life

There are two dates for the date of birth of Sámuel Brassai: 1797 and 1800. According to his own admission, 1797 is the correct year of birth, but there is no official record of this. He learned music and natural sciences, as well as the German language, at his parents' house. (His father's upbringing method was to make the child rely on his own strength as much as possible.) After graduating from regular schools, he traveled in Hungary and Transylvania, primarily from a natural science point of view; At the age of 21, he was tutored at first by a Makrai family, then by the Count Bethlen family, and gave private lessons in natural history to the most famous families of Transylvania. In 1834, he moved to Cluj, where he founded the Vasárnapi Újság. In 1837, he won a chair at the Unitarian College in Cluj, where he taught history and geography, later mathematics and natural sciences, until 1848; From 1845 he was also a teacher of humanities. His name is associated with the educational reform adopted in 1841, during which the language of education became Hungarian instead of Latin. In 1848, he was appointed a teacher at the national military school (Ludoviceum), but nothing came of the teaching. He was an officer in Bem's camp from the end of 1848 to August 1849. After the end of the war of independence, he hid in Szatmár and Máramaros counties, then in 1850 he moved to Pest and lived here until 1859, teaching at Pál Gönczy's private educational institution. He then went back to Cluj and taught philosophy and mathematics at the college of the Unitarians. At the same time, the Transylvanian Museum Association invited him to be the keeper of the natural history museum and the director of the museum; in this capacity, he transformed the Mikó garden into a herb garden. In 1862, he resigned from his teaching position at the Unitarian college and made a HUF 1,000 endowment for the college. In 1872, on the occasion of the opening of the University of Science in Cluj, he was appointed a regular teacher of elementary mathematics, and was immediately elected vice-rector; In 1875–76 he was dean at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences and in 1879–80 he was university rector. He also presented the Sanskrit language and comparative Indo-Germanic linguistics. In January 1877, together with Hugo Meltzl, he started the Comparative Literary History Journal, of which he was the editor until 1880. He was retired in 1884, but even after that he accepted students and monitored the movements of the scientific world. The week before his death, he left his fortune and his library to the Unitarian Church. His student Herman Ottó sent an express letter to his funeral: "Enclosed I am sending a single pair of flowers