History of the Department

The Department of Anthropology was established as one of the Institutes of the University of Budapest in 1881, the fourth among such university institutes in Europe. Aurel Török (1842-1912) was appointed its first professor and began to courses of lectures. In the university courses, Török made use of Topinard’s manual, which he together with G. Pethő translated and published in Hungarian in 1881. In 1882 published at his own expense "Anthropologiai Füzetek" (Journal of Anthropology), where he included sixteen of his own studies. His main purpose was to study the origin of the Hungarian people with the methods of paleoanthropology and ethnical anthropology. But the lack of financial support of the Secretaries of the State and other authorities he had to give up his idea. After this he devoted more and more attention to methodology, particularly connected with the reform of craniometry and he became the wellknown “reformer of craniology at Pest”. His book "Grundzüge einer systematischen Kraniometrie" (1890) is an interesting piece of reading, even today, for in it he described 5371 measurements and indices. His biometric methods, especially the introduction of probability theory into anthropological practice, brought him wide distinction.
Following Török’s death in 1912, the headship of Budapest University Department of Anthropology passed to directors who had inadequate grounding in the subject, first A. Koch, then Zs. Tóth, and then A. Paal. With M. Lenhossék’s (1863-1937) appointment as the head of Institute of Anthropology (who was that time the Professor of Anatomy) there was a great step forward. He did not restrict interest exclusively to osteology and craniology, in his work more modern topics appeared for the first time in Hungarian anthropological studies – demonstration of the extent of hominid variation, the characteristics of growth, numerous examples of disease frequency variation by sex and by race. Under his direction, the Institute of Anthropology of Budapest showed marked progress.

Following Wold War I, the zoologist L. Méhely was appointed head of the Department of Anthropology. He was of strong racist opinions, but these were not shared by other members of the Institute, or indeed any Hungarian anthropologists. After Méhely’s retirement in 1931, L. Bartucz (1885-1966) became the lecturer in Anthropology in the University of Budapest. He was formerly Török’s assistant, taking up the study of the anthropology of the Hungarians while Török was occupied with methodological questions. In 1920 he left the university, but in the years to follow he had arranged Jankó’s cranial collection in the ethnographic section of the Hungarian National Museum, and this workplace allowed him to build up the anthropological laboratory of the Museum. Bartucz scoped to collaborate with archaeologists and to collect human skeletal remains from excavations in the territory of Hungary. In parallel with this activity, Bartucz also began the study of ethnic groups living in various part of Hungary. It was Bartucz who reported on the famous Neanderthal finds of Subalyuk. Besides his work in the fields of palaeoanthropology and palaeopathology, he discussed the history of Hungarian anthropology in a number of studies, and indeed his work touched on almost all the domains of anthropology.

Bartucz recommenced the journal "Anthropologiai Füzetek" founded by Török in 1923, but was unsuccessful in establishing it as a regular periodical. Issues appeared sporadically up to the late 1930s, and this was the sole publication for anthropological investigations in Hungary at that period.

In the 1930s, M. Malán (1900-1968), a pupil of M. Lenhossék and E. Fischer from Germany, worked as Associate Professor at the Institute of Anthropology in Budapest, being particularly interested in human and population genetic topics. M. Fehér (1914-1975), also an Associate Professor, introduced into the so-called ethnic anthropological studies, as well as the investigations of questioned patternity. J. Nemeskéri (1914-2000), a pupil of L. Bartucz, started also his career in that period in this Department with studies on the physical anthropology of the Hajdu ethnical group.

In 1940 L. Bartucz was appointed the Professor of the Department of Anthropology at the University in Szeged, but he combined his duties with giving lectures in Budapest. Later, in 1959 he left the university of Szeged and he was appointed to the professor of anthropology in Budapest, called from the year 1950 as the Department of Anthropology at the Eötvös Loránd University. His activity at that time centered on palaeoanthropology and palaeopathology, and he published the monograph "Prehistoric Trephining and Grave Finds relating to the History of Medicine" (1966). Early in the 1950s, the first published university lecture notes in anthropology, under the title "Embertan" (Physical Anthropology) and "Emberszármazástan" (Evolution of Man) in Szeged and in the early 60’s in Budapest, too.

Up to the 1960’s only one or two assistants worked at the department. M. Fehér’s twenty-five years’ work as an Associate Professor was concentrated on ethnic anthropology, human genetics for questioned patternity, and to a lesser degree, examination of growth and development of Hungarian children. It is much to be regretted that of the material he collected on several hundred thousand individuals he hardly published anything.

O. G. Eiben (b. 1931), who joined the Department in 1963 and served as its head from 1975 to 1996, directed the work in the department already from 1965. At the close of the 1960s, extensive reconstruction of the department improved conditions. Early in the 1970s the educational and research activities of the department were consolidated, and besides the basic courses in physical anthropology and human biology, lectures began on human genetics, human ecology, and special topics in human biology, complemented, with the help of invited lecturers. Research is pursued mainly on growth and development of children, variations in human physique, and human population genetics.
O. G. Eiben and his associates carried out the first nation-wide, representative Hungarian growth study between 1982 and 1984, and have published national growth standards. Also Eiben organized the "Budapest Longitudinal Growth Study" started in 1970 with 0-1 year-old babies in collaboration with numerous institutes, several specialists and 60 nurses.
O. G. Eiben was the Editor of journal "Anthropologiai Közlemények" between 1965-1999.
In 1974 the Department instituted its own series of monographs with the title "Humanbiologia Budapestinensis" edited by O. G. Eiben.
O. G. Eiben passed away on November 16, 2004, at the age of 74 years.

From 1966 G. Gyenis (b. 1940) began to work in the Department on the fields of population genetics, dermatoglyphics, and growth and development of children and youth. In 1996 he became the head of the department and in 1999 the full professor of the Faculty of Science of the university.

At the present the head of the Department É. B. Bodzsár was appointed as an assistant professor of the Department in 1972 (nowadays full professor). She became the doctor of Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 2001. Her main fields of research involve growth and aging, as well as body composition and physique. She has been the Editor of Anthropologiai Közlemények since 1999.

In September 2001, the department moved to the new campus of the Faculty of Science of the university, to the Buda part of the city, at the so called Lágymányos shore of the Danube. At this time joined to the department A. Zsákai, working as an assistant professor. Her main fields of research involve growth and development and twin longitudinal studies.

Our department is involved in Neuroscience and Humanbiology Program of Biology Doctorate School at Faculty of Natural Sciences. At the present two full-time fellowship holders and ten correspondence students study in the Humanbiology Program.

The Hungarian textbook series in human biology published by the members of the staff facilitates the studies of Phd and undergraduate students:
É. Bodzsár (1999, 2003) Human Biology. Development:Growth and Maturation
G. Gyenis (2001) Human Biology. Evolution of Hominids
É. B. Bodzsár (2003) Human Biology. Biology of Aging: Puberty
É. Bodzsár, A. Zsákai (2004) Human Biology. Practical Manual Book

The members of the staff take part in the work of several Hungarian and international scientific associations, in the leadership of several Hungarian and international organisations in the fields of the biological antropology and serve on the editorial boards of numerous international journals.


Department of Biological Anthropology, Eötvös Loránd University
Pázmány Péter sétány 1/c (4th floor), 1117 Budapest, Web: http://antropologia.elte.hu/~anthrop
Tel.: (36-1) 381-2161, (36-1) 411-6500 (8061), Fax: (36-1) 381-2162