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A brief biography of István Sályi

Sályi István

István Sályi was born in 1901 (original name: István Springer). He changed his surname to Sályi in 1936. He received his degree in mechanical engineering at the Budapest University of Technology in 1923. Between 1924 and 1928 he was a workshop engineer at the Ganz Wagon and Machine Factory (Ganz Vagon- és Gépgyár).

He graduated from the Tisza István University of Science in Debrecen - later KLTE , now University of Debrecen - where he specialised in Mathematics as well to supplement his mechanical engineering studies. In 1928, he was awarded the master's degree in Mathematics for his thesis "Supplementary of Axiomatic Geometry of János Bolyai", due to which he was awarded the title of sub auspiciis gubernatoris doctor, since all of his marks were excellent both in his secondary school and his university index, and received the best scores in the final exams.

From 1928 to 1937, he was employed as an assistant lecturer at the Department of Mechanics at the József Nádor University of Technical and Economic Sciences. Meanwhile he received a scholarship to the USA where he carried out research work in 1931. The findings of this research were also published in his university doctoral degree thesis entitled "The Slow Metamorphosis of Concrete, with which he was granted the title of doctor of technical sciences.

He realised that engineering mechanics would enter an age of development, in which the cultivation of the discipline would be impossible without profound mathematical knowledge. This approach laid the foundations for his further research. Therefore the chapters "Quantitative Studies", "Mechanics" and "Solid Mechanics" written by István Sályi for the Pattantyús Mechanical Pocketbook (Pattantyús Gépészeti Zsebkönyv) (1937) and containing his modern vectorial and tensorial description of mechanics are very significant.

This highly academic writing had an extraordinarily large effect and it brought respect and recognition to him. The same approach was taken twenty years later when István Sályi was working on two volumes of the series Pattantyús Mechanical and Electrical Engineers Handbook (Pattantyús-féle Gépész- és Villamosmérnökök kézikönyve) as the editor-in-chief.

From 1939, he worked as a freelance lecturer at the Budapest University of Technology, where he taught such subjects as Specific Problems of Statics, Statics and Mechanics. He gave lectures in the Engineering Retraining Institute several times. Between 1937 and 1949, he worked as a judge at the Patent Court, then between 1949 and 1974, he became a professor of the Technical University of Heavy Industry founded in 1949 - the present day University of Miskolc - where he was the head of the Department of Mechanics until 1971, the dean of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in the academic year 1950-51 and the rector of the university from 1950 until 31 July, 1961.

Professor Sályi took over the management of the university in a difficult period, in only its second year, under provisional circumstances when the future of the university was doubtful. His unprecedented energy was turned to the solution of a variety of problems. His suitability as a leader was acknowledged by those nearby and in the greater community. He was able to convince his colleagues and opponents to support his plans.

István Sályi took great efforts to establish the unity of the university in Miskolc. In the beginning, education at the Faculty of Mining Engineering took place in two locations until 1959, with students enrolling in Miskolc and spending two years there, then going on with their studies in Sopron.

His organisational abilities, the wide scope of knowledge, his spiritual greatness, devotion to education are also justified with his high-profile social and political responsibilities: Member of the Hungarian Parliament (1953-74), Chairman of the Industrial Committee (1953-63), and member of Presidium Council (1963-74). The high-level acknowledgement of his work included being awarded the Kossuth Prize in 1953, the title of doctor of honoris causa of the Technical University of Heavy Industry and the honorary citizenship of Miskolc (1973), and the fact that a street in Avas-Dél Town District was also named after him shows the respect that he earned. The largest lecture hall at the university (Hall No 1) is also called the "Sályi István Lecture Hall".

As a rector he assisted greatly in the development of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and the establishment of its high standards. He thought he could contribute best to the public good if he did not pave the way for his own scientific career but instead contributed to the preparation of dissertations by younger talented teachers, by giving them effective advice, in this way educating the teaching staff of the university. He was demanding towards himself and his environment. He knew only well-done work could provide a sufficient foundation to quality research, education and strengthening the reputation of the university.

His lectures were excellent, and his sentences were complete and precise. He drew beautiful illustrations and he made up his lectures notes, materials and tests with great care. He dealt with good students separately. He considered the demanding discussion of technical mechanics and its expanded application very important. He was the first person in Hungary to introduce education within the framework of a specialisation in Applied Mechanics. He gained the support of respected professors for the work within this specialisation. His notes and his coursebooks are considered to be brilliant in this professional field. Among his coursebooks, special recognition should be given to Collection of Problems in Stress Analysis I and II (Szilárdságtani példatár I, II) written in co-operation with Professor Fáber, and to the four editions of Elements of Kinematics and Elements of Dynamics.

With Professor János Szabó (Head of the Department of Mechanics, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Budapest University of Technology) he initiated regular scientific meetings on mechanics to present and motivate national research results in mechanics. The Hungarian Conference on Mechanics has been organized in Miskolc every four years since 1971 thanks to this effort. Professor Sályi was also the President of the Hungarian Affiliate of the International Organization of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics between 1968 and 1973.

Looking back from today's perspective, his objectives and methods proved to be right. His contribution to teaching mechanics was revolutionary. He also established the Sályi school of mechanics. Six professors emerging from his immediate milieu have carried on Professor Sályi's methods of description, way of thinking and high expectations. Rightly do we call him an outstanding professor of technical mechanics and the de facto founding rector of our university. What he did in these two fields is exemplary.

Professor Sályi can be respected for being an excellent man, a scholar and a teacher and for determining the image of the university, looking for new ways in education, and emphasizingthe importance of demanding work. We pay tribute to his human greatness by giving his name to the Doctoral School of Mechanical Engineering Sciences.

University of Miskolc Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Informatics