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Zoltán Lajos Bay

The native form of this personal name is Bay Zoltán Lajos. This article uses the Western name order.
Zoltán Lajos Bay
File:Zoltán Bay (1900-1992) Hungarian physicist.jpg
Born (1900-07-24)July 24, 1900
Gyulavári, Hungary
Died October 4, 1992(1992-10-04)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Residence Hungary
United States
Nationality Hungarian
Citizenship Hungarian
Occupation Physicist, inventor
Known for Electron multiplier, radar astronomy, the new definition of a meter (metre)
File:Bay Zoltán síremléke.jpg
Gravestone of Zoltán Bay (Gyulavári, Hungary)

Zoltán Lajos Bay (July 24, 1900 in Gyulavári – October 4, 1992 in Washington, D.C.)[1] was a Hungarian physicist, professor, and engineer who developed microwave technology, including tungsten lamps. He was the second person to observe radar echoes from the Moon. From 1930, he worked at the University of Szeged as a professor of theoretical physics.

In 1923 at Tungsram Ltd., a research laboratory was established for improving light sources, mainly electric bulbs.[1] The head of that laboratory was Ignác Pfeifer, whose research staff included Zoltán Bay, along with Tivadar Millner, Imre Bródy, György Szigeti, Ernő Winter, and many others.[1]

György Szigeti worked together with Zoltán Bay on metal-vapor lamps and fluorescent light sources. They received a U.S. patent on "Electroluminescent light sources" which were made of silicon carbide; these light sources were the ancestors of light-emitting diodes (LEDs).[1]

In 1998 the State of Israel recognized him as among the Righteous Among the Nations and listed his name at Yad Vashem.


Zoltán Bay was born in the town of Gyula, Hungary on July 24, 1900.[2] Having finished his secondary school studies in Debrecen, he developed an interest in the technical sciences. His inspirations were famous Hungarian scientists such as János Bolyai and Loránd von Eötvös.[2]

In 1918, Zoltán Bay enrolled at the József Eötvös College and studied at the Royal Hungarian Péter Pázmány University (former name of the Budapest University).[2] In 1923, he received a secondary school teacher’s diploma and, in 1926, earned a doctorate in physics.

From 1926 to 1930, Zoltán Bay worked on a scholarship in Germany, where he experienced the character-forming environment of a scientific workshop, and where he also made significant results in analyzing discharges in nitrogen gas and demonstrating the presence of atomic nitrogen.[2]

On returning home to Hungary, Zoltán Bay was appointed head of the Department of Theoretical Physics at Szeged University.[2] In 1936, he began managing the research laboratory of the United Incandescent Lamps and Electrical Co. In 1937, he became a correspondent member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and in 1945, an ordinary member. In 1938, Bay was appointed professor at the Department of Atomic Physics in the Technical University of Budapest. The same year he invented the electron multiplier, which was asked for by such as Werner Heisenberg and John Neumann. For his compatriot-emigree John von Neumann he developed electronical circuits, faster than any before, for the early digital computers. In 1946, he conducted successful Moon-radar experiments.[2] During the war, Zoltán Bay protected Jewish colleagues from Nazi persecution. In 1998, the State of Israel honored him as Righteous Among the Nations for his actions and listed his name at Yad Vashem.

Leaving Hungary in 1948, Zoltán Bay continued his research, working as a professor at George Washington University, United States.[2] His most important achievement at the university was to finish work on development of the electron multiplier, which he had started in Hungary in 1938.[2]

In 1955, Zoltán Bay became head of the Department of Nuclear Physics in the National Bureau of Standards (NBS, called today NIST), where he measured the velocity and frequency of light by a previously unknown measurement method.[2] As a result of Zoltán's research, the 1983 conference of the International Weights and Measures Bureau accepted, as a standard, the definition of a meter (metre)[3] as recommended by Zoltán Bay.

Zoltán Bay retired at the age of 72. In 1981, he was elected as an honorary member into the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Zoltán Bay died on October 4, 1992 at his home in Washington, D.C.[2] He was buried in 10 April 1993 in his native Gyulavári (now part of Gyula).


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Fizikai Szemle 1999/5 - Zsolt Bor: OPTICS BY HUNGARIANS" (with Zoltán Bay), József Attila University, Szeged, Hungary, 1999 KFKI-Hungary-Bor
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 "Zoltán Bay, whose name the Foundation bears" (life), Bay Zoltán Institute of Logistics and Production Engineering (Bay-Logi), Bay Zoltán Foundation for Applied Research, 1994, webpage:BZLogi Biography at Bay Zoltán Foundation.
  3. Resolution 1 of the 17th CGPM (CGPM, 1983), retrieved from BIPM database (BIPM, n.d.) on 24 August 2008.

External links

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