Biography of Gyula Németh

Gyula Németh


Németh Gyula He was born on November 2, 1890 in the town Karcag, one of the most important centres of the Hungarian countryside called up today Greater Cumania. When he was 14 he began to learn Turkish and was still a student of secondary school when he first visited Istanbul in 1907.

In 1909 he became a student of the University of Budapest and at the same time he was admitted to the famous Eötvös-College. Next year he got a travel-grant for a study tour in the Caucasus. The report on his Kumyk and Balkar studies was his first independent publication. Németh continued his studies in Leipzig, Berlin and Kiel, and two years after gaining his Ph.D in 1913 he began to give lectures in turcology. In 1916 he became professor extraordinary and his appointment as full professor is dated from December 31, 1918. Since he retired from his chair in 1965, he had taguht for an uninterrupted period of 50 years at the University of Budapest.

In the meantime, Németh had played an active role in the organization of Hungarian oriental studies. He was one of the founders of the Kőrösi Csoma Society and became the editor-in-chief of its new journal the Kőrösi Csoma Archivum.

In 1922 he was elected as a corresponding member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. His inaugural lecture was delivered in 1923 under the title "Huns, Bulgarians, Hungarians". Working already on his opus magnum "The formation of the land conquering Hungarians" he gave his first results and outlined his plans.

Németh became the dean of the Faculty of Philosophy in 1932 and three years later he was elected as ordinary member of the Hungarian Academy.

After the reorganization of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1949, he was elected as president of the First Class Language and Literature, and held this posotion until 1955. He became the editor-in-chief of the journal of the Acta Linguistica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae where he was active until his death.

When he was 75 Németh retired from both the chair of Turcology and from the directorship of the Institute of Linguistics in 1965, but he continued to take an active part in several comittees and institutions.

The inheritence left behind by two outstanding Hungarian turcologists, Ármin Vámbéry and József Thúry deeply influenced the development of Németh's scientific activity: he dealt thoroughly with problems of both ancient Turkic and Osmanli-Turkish language history, the solution of which has led to a direct or indirect clarification of the debated questions of Hungarian-Turkic contacts.

In 1921 his first papers on Turkic loanwords in the Hungarian language and on questions regarding Hungarian prehistory came out. Following the same direction, after decades of study and careful critical investigations, he published in 1930 his work entitled "The formation of the land conquering Hungarians". Its main isuue was to uncover Turkic tribal naming and tribal system, as well as the initial form of the nomadic Turkic states; its individual moments served as instructive analogical examples for getting acquainted with the emergence of the Hungarian tribal union.

Another unperishable product of his scientific activity is connected with the treasure of Nagyszentmiklós. He succeeded in tracing the meaning of the Turkic inscriptions: he found that they contained texts in the Pecheneg language and with approximate accuracy he also determined their age of preparation.

In the thirties Németh began studies on the Turkish dialects of Bulgaria. He spent summer holidays in Vidin, in order to collect dialectical texts. He had clarified the division of dialects and published his rich documental material on the linguistic and ethnic description of the Turks in Vidin.

In 1957 it happened that on the back of a document dated from 1422 a presumably Pecheneg word list hit upon in the Hungarian National Archives. Németh deciphered the text and concluded that it was written in the language of the Hungarian Jazygians, this being the only written Alan linguistic monument.

After his retirement in 1965, Németh set a forth his studies in the field of the Osmanli language. He worked on the Turkish manuscript grammarbook of Miklós Illésházy from the year 1668, and through this he illustrated what the Turkish language was like when spoken in Hungary at the end of the 17th century. Meanwhile he constantly kept working on his main theme, the problems of Turkic tribal naming.

Gyula Németh's more than half-a-century scientific activity resulted in several new phases and new starting points, not only in the field of Hungarian but also in international turcological studies. These unperisheble merits of his urged the Faculty of Arts to propose the Eötvös Loránd Universty confer upon him the degree of honoris causa doctor in 1970.

His scholarly library was purchased by the University of Szeged in 1978, and was placed at the Altaic Studies Departmental Group.


• LIGETI, Lajos, Jules Németh: Acta Orientalia Hungarica 11(1960) pp. 5-9.
• KÁLDY-NAGY, Gyula, Julius Németh: Hungaro-turcica - studies in honour of Julius Németh Budapest,1976, pp. 11-15.
• RÓNA-TAS, András, Julius Németh. Life and work: Acta Orientalia Hungarica 32(1978) pp. 261-284.