From Academic Kids

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"Portrait of Count István Széchenyi" by Friedrich von Amerling

Gróf Széchenyi István (Count Stephen Széchenyi) (September 21, 1791, Vienna, Austria-HungaryApril 8, 1860 Döbling), known as "The Greatest Hungarian", was a Hungarian politician and writer, one of the founding fathers of "New Hungary" after the revolution of 1848.

His father, Ferenc Széchényi, was the founder of the Hungarian National Museum and the Hungarian National Library, and his mother was Countess Juliána Festetics (daughter of Pál Festetics), who married Ferenc Széchényi with papal permission after the death of her first husband, József Széchényi (brother of Ferenc) on 17 August, 1777. They had two daughters and three sons, of whom István was the youngest.

Although their home was in Austria, the family brought up the children to speak the Hungarian language. István finished school with excellent results. He joined the army with his brothers to protect the country from the Napoleonic danger, and won high rank and many medals for bravery when he left the army in 1826.

He travelled extensively while in the army: he visited most of the European cities - from Britain to Italy - and visited Transylvanian and Hungarian villages (where he met (Felsőbüki) Pál Nagy and Count Miklós Wesselényi). He became interested in the art and archeology of Greece and Western Asia.

He founded the sport of horse racing in Hungary when he met King Francis I in 1822. He was researching horse breeding in many European countries while travelling, and he wrote his book Lovakrul (About Horses).

In the national assembly of 1825, he offered a year's income from his lands to found the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (which still acts as a central scientific organisation in several fields), and the charter of the Academy was signed by the king on 18 August, 1827.

He used literature to share his views on the economical and social problems. His first book (About horses) mentioned the reasons behind the lack of horse breeding, and economical problems connected to it; other books of his among other ones were Hitel (Credit, 1830), Világ (Light, 1831), which drafted his economical and social views on a great scale (for example he urged the two cities Buda and Pest to join to support central economic leadership). He supported theatres in many minor writings. In 1833 he published Stádium (Status) in which he voiced his strong views on how economy should work and its basis.

One of his dreams was to use the river Danube as an universal commercial route, and he travelled throughout the river and supported the works to clear the rocky parts which obstructed ship travel. He was a supporter of the steam boat idea, and pushed their use. In the late 1830s he worked on the clearing of Danube, the founding and regulation of horse racing and the Lánchíd (Chain Bridge, which was later named Széchenyi Lánchíd after him).

He married Countess Crescence Seilern after the death of her husband Count Károly Zichy in 1836.

His relations with Lajos Kossuth were not good: he always thought Kossuth was a political agitator. Half of the country sympathised with him, and the other half with Kossuth. After the 1848 revolution he was convinced of the opportunity of achieving greater development of Hungary so he agreed to be the head of the Ministry of Transport and Social Affairs.

The failure of the revolution caused a mental breakdown, and his doctor ordered him to the Goergen Asylum of Döbling. Due to the loving care of his wife he regained his mental power, and wrote Önismeret (Self knowledge) about children, education and pedagogy. Even more important was his work, Ein Blick (One Look / "hey, just a minute" dual meaning) about the deep political problems of Hungary in the beginning of the 1850s.

His house was searched by the Viennese Police on March 3, 1860, and they used his letters as evidence of political conspiracy. They told him that the asylum would not be a protection for him any more. The fear of execution, the sadness about the death of his late friend Sámuel Jósika and the worrying political era made him to commit suicide on the night of April 8, 1860. All Hungary mourned his death. The Academy was in official mourning, along with the most prominent persons of the leading political and cultural associations (count József Eötvös, János Arany, Károly Szász). His statue in Budapest was unveiled on May 23, 1880, and in Sopron in the sameán Széchenyi eo:SZÉCHENYI István hu:Széchenyi István pl:Stefan Széchenyi


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