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Zerinváry Szilárd medal

The Zerinváry medal was established in 1963, however, Zerinváry is neither depicted on the coin nor his name is mentioned.

The Zerinváry Szilárd medal (prize) was founded by Szentendre City Council in 1963. The prize was for awarding individuals working for amateur astronomy, or astronomy popularization honoured by the Circle of Friends of Astronomy. After the termination of the Circle in 1989 it was not issued any more. For a list of winners see the Wikipedia website.

On the obverse among rays of light and stylized "orbitals" a figure is emerging. Below is the legend: "KIVÁLÓ ISMERETTERJESZTŐ MUNKÁÉRT", i. e. for great popularization work. On the right side is the medalist's signature, interlocking capital letters PKJ, that is Pándi Kiss János. The bronze medal has a diameter of 95 mm and weighing 166 grams.

zerinvary hatlapzerinvary

On the reverse is an astronomical telescope on its mount. Legend is:  "I. AMATŐR CSILLAGÁSZATI KONGRESSZUS", i. e. 1st amateur astronomical congress, and "SZENTENDRE 1963" can be read.

The medal has also another version, where the year displayed on the obverse. 

How became Galilei to Szilárd Zerinváry

This surprising question was asked by Attila Mizser in this year's June issue of the Meteor. (A monthly magazine of the Hungarian Astronomical Association, on p. 46: The third side of a commemorative medal); a question that was not asked for 30 years. Namely: Why do we call the award that was given for a quarter century for significant amateur activity and astronomy popularization to Zerinváry-medal, when not even the name of the famous popularizer Szilárd Zerinváry (1915-1958) can be found on it?

We can hardly get exact detailed information on the real background of the organization of the Astronomy Friend's Circle (CSBK) and the establishment of Zerinváry-medal today. Let me try - based partly on my private memory, partly on contemporary newspaper articles - to reconstruct the events. This is all the more necessary because it provides a way to revive the name of the unfairly forgotten a poet Endre Darázs (1926-1971), whose merits are considerable in renewal of the Hungarian amateur movement and in the foundation of Zerinváry-medal.

In the 1960s people across the country have been urging the revival of the amateur astronomer's association terminated in 1949. The then-leaders of the Society for Dissemination of Scientific Knowledge (TIT) quite firmly refused the thought. We now know that this was not only due to the blinkered humane orientation (literature, history of science, etc.) of the TIT managers, but a pressure of policy of time, which is strongly opposed to any "civil alliances", especially ideologically in such a sensitive area of science, such as astronomy.

Then came into the scene Endre Darázs, who in those years - as I recall in 1962 - mainly wrote cultural reports for a living. On one occasion he visited the Urania in Budapest, and after almost one conversation he became a committed supporter of the amateur movement. At a later time he charged at György Kulin and Gedeon Róka:

- Why is not an association of the Hungarian amateur astronomers?

Róka began to explain soft soaply, that amateurs are represented by the Astronomy and Space Section of TIT, and anyway there is no material and moral (!!!) basis for such a movement, etc., etc. Darázs impatiently, but listened to the speech, and then asked:

- Ok, ok, right, but why is not an association of the Hungarian amateur astronomers?

In fact, with his agitation, propaganda in 1962-63 he greatly enhanced the unfold of a plan of an amateur astronomy group, operating within TIT. The fact that in 1964 the world celebrated the 400th anniversary of the birth of Galileo Galilei also contributed to it. Within TIT it also came into question that on this occasion they could create a plaque. Again Endre Darázs was the one who thought that the issue of a commemorative medal should be encouraged that the best operating and hard-working amateurs could receive.

But one of "the wise men" of TIT threw in (I suspect that it was Gedeon Róka), and said that Galilei-medal is not an option because the amateur astronomers were too insignificant, were not representing sufficiently high academic standards to a plaque bearing Galilei's name.

The pretty plan is therefore  wrecked: the TIT was neither supported Galileo, nor the preparation of amateurs' reward medal. (Galileo's name will be immortalized by a more inspired scientific organization - was said, and since then we don't have Galilean medal.) Fortunately, at that time my short memorial text about Szilárd Zerinváry  fell into the hands of out poet friend. Zerinváry lived his last years of his life as a resident of Szentendre.

- For I know the president of the council of Szentendre! - Darázs slapped his forehead and ran a new way of organizing.

He persuaded the town leaders, that to commemorate Szilárd Zerinváry at the five-year anniversary of his death, to organize an amateur astronomy meeting and to immortalize the work of 'son' of Szentendre by a commemorative medal. As the name of the educator Zerinváry  was acceptable to the TIT, the support of such a medal has already been achieved. The council of Szentendre, however  - as the coverer of the costs - rightly insisted on that the prize winners would receive the medal in the name of the late Szilárd Zerinváry! However, the plaque was finished, Galileo's name was taken off, but Zerinváry's was not put on.

So first meeting of the Hungarian national amateur astronomers could take place on 21-22 September, 1963 which was the founding of the TIT's Circle of Friends of Astronomy as well. The first medal shows this event also. Szilárd Zerinváry's name was not on it, but it was handed over to me as "to his memory". For the first time as "Szilárd Zerinváry medal" it was delivered in the II. National Meeting of amateurs in 1964, and this is the name which Gedeon Róka mentions in the report published in The Starry Sky (Csillagos Ég 6. évf., 4. sz., 8. o.). That time dr. Gyula Szabó a teacher from Miskolc received the finally Szilárd-Zerinváry-named, but the name of nowhere wearing medal, which originally would have been preserved Galileo's name.

Lajos Barta

Meteor 1993/10