Michael Polanyi

(12 March 1891–22 February 1976) Elected F.R.S. 1944
  • E. P. Wigner
  • R. A. Hodgkin
Part of the Historical, Philosophical, and Socio-Political Papers book series (WIGNER, volume B / 7)


Michael Polanyi was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1891. He used to recall how his father, a civil engineer and entrepreneur involved in the planning and development of railways, would return from his travels in Germany and the West with tales of tunnels and washouts and with new scientific and educational ideas. But, as a result of some unfortunate mishap, he lost all his fortune in 1899 when Michael was eight years old. This placed a severe financial strain on the family which was greatly aggravated in 1905 when Michael’s father died. Michael or Mishi, as his early friends called him throughout life, then earned some of the money needed in the family by tutoring other high school students. The widowed mother, despite straitened means, was able to remain the centre of a social and intellectual circle of which many of the young poets, painters and scholars of that period in Hungary were members. Thus it was that his mother’s persistent interest in social problems, in poetry and art, came to have a great influence on Michael’s emotional development. He had two brothers and two sisters, older than him, who were all, in their ways, distinguished.


Tacit Knowledge Rock Salt Personal Knowledge Transition State Theory Fibre Chemistry 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. P. Wigner
  • R. A. Hodgkin

There are no affiliations available

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