Otto Szász

Otto Szász was born in Alsoszucs, Hungary to a farm family and was educated at the University of Budapest and the Institute of Technology of Budapest. According to the custom of the time, during his undergraduate years he also spent time at another leading European university, in his case the University of Göttingen in 1907-08. At Göttingen he attended mathematics lectures by Klein, Hilbert, Minkowski, Toeplitz and Herglotz and physics lectures by Voigt and Prandtl. Szász received his Ph.D., working under the supervision of Leopold Fejér, from the University of Budapest in 1911 and was appointed a privatdozent the same year. From 1911 to 1914 he continued postdoctoral studies at the University of Munich, the University of Paris and the University of Göttingen. In 1914 he moved to the University of Frankfurt as a privatdozent and was appointed Professor in 1920. He was forced from his chair by the Nazis in 1933 and immigrated to the United States taking temporary posts at MIT (arranged by Norbert Wiener, see [NW]) and Brown University. In 1936 he was appointed, through the efforts of Wiener and I.A. Barnett, to the faculty of the University of Cincinnati. In his autobiography [NW] Wiener relates that
"He had a career of some twenty years in America, where he ultimately received recognition more appropriate to his really very considerable talents than he found in Germany"
Szász was an important figure in classical analysis and by all accounts a well-liked person (Wiener called him "a lovable little Hungarian"). He served on the editorial board of the American Journal of Mathematics and his research contributed to the theory of Fourier series, summability theory, continued fractions and approximation theory. He was awarded the Julius König Prize of the Hungarian Mathematical and Physical Society in 1939 and a selection of his collected works [DL] (running nearly 1500 pages) was published by the University of Cincinnati in 1955. Szász died of a heart attack in 1952 while summering with his wife at her mother's estate in Montreux, Switzerland. He is buried in Vevay, Switzerland.


[DL] H.D. Lipsich (Ed.), Collected Works of Otto Szász, University of Cincinnati, 1955.

[NW] N. Wiener, I am a Mathematician, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1956.

[GS] G. Szegö, "Otto Szász", Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society 60(1954), 261- 263.

Article by Charles Groetsch
University of Cincinnati