20th August 2020

Speech by President János Áder at the award ceremony of the Order of Saint Stephen of Hungary

Mr Prime Minister,
Mr Speaker,
Distinguished guests,
Esteemed Award Recipient,

Edward Teller once said in an interview that the relationship of man to his own world has changed completely during the 20th century. Distance ceased to exist, “the world had become one whole organic interactive system”. Where everything is connected with everything through millions of interfaces. Because the number of interactions was infinite, Edward Teller believed that science was waging a new war with the unexpectedness and the diversity of life. That is to say with the infinite.

“When I call this the infinite – he said – I do not mean to underestimate it. Because I will only call something the infinite that (…) I would like to understand. The notion of infinite is simply saying that we did not understand it, that I did not understand it, but I did not give up hope to understand it more.”

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year’s recipient of the Order of Saint Stephen insists that he only made it into academia by coincidence. The first coincidence was essentially the advice of a good friend. Someone – with great vision – suggested that the young medical university drop-out Endre Szemerédi should try a mathematics-physics majors instead.

The second coincidence was when on a walk by the Danube-river he came up with the proof and reasoning of a mathematical theorem that had been unanswered for close to 40 years. It was a “coincidence” that Endre Szemerédi came up with the solution to the riddle of Pál Erdős and Pál Turán from 1936. Following in the steps of his great predecessors, he himself became a master of problem solving. Who – in the words of Edward Teller – always wanted to achieve more.

The mathematical reasoning, the question which led to a theorem immediately catapulted Szemerédi to the frontline of the international academic community. His name soon became well known in the world of number theory and combinatorial analysis.

The notion named after him ensured academic immortality for him. Something that only the greatest merit.

However much more was needed than a coincidence for the career, for international job offers, for research at the top universities of the world, for articles published alone or with co-authors or for the respectful appreciation of his contemporaries. Determination, diligence, performance and faith. The resolute quest for answers.

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