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Fejér, Lipót

(1880–1959), mathematician. Lipót Fejér was born in Pécs, Hungary. Though he had difficulty with mathematics in elementary school, Fejér excelled at this subject in high school. In particular, he mastered problems presented in the monthly journal Középiskolai Matematikai Lapok (Mathematical Journal for Secondary Schools), established in 1893 by Dániel Arany to advance the teaching of mathematics in general and to nurture talented high school students. This journal, thought to be the first of its kind in the world, had a major impact on Hungary’s contributions to mathematics.

In 1897, Fejér began to study mathematics and physics at the Polytechnic University of Budapest and at the University of Budapest. In 1899–1900 he continued his studies in Berlin, and in 1902–1903 at the universities of Göttingen and Paris. In 1900 he translated his name, Weisz, to its Hungarian equivalent. From 1905, he served as a lecturer, then as an associate professor, at the University of Kolozsvár (Cluj, Transylvania, now in Romania), and was appointed full professor there and at the University of Budapest in 1911.

In 1908 Fejér was elected to be a corresponding member, and in 1930 an ordinary member, of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He was awarded prestigious prizes, received honorary doctorates, and was elected to various highly respected academies and scholarly societies in Hungary and abroad. He also served on the editorial board of several mathematical journals.

Fejér specialized in the area of analysis; in particular, he worked on Fourier series, interpolation theory, and constructive function theory. He was probably the first mathematician in Hungary around whom a school was formed, although many of his students (among them Gábor Szegő, György Pólya, Marcel Riesz, and Mihály Fekete) emigrated, in large part because of antisemitism and discrimination.

Students, colleagues, and friends remembered Fejér as a charismatic teacher and charming person. A bachelor and a colorful person interested in arts and people, he also excelled at the piano. Before World War I in Kolozsvár, he became friends with Endre Ady, the great Hungarian poet. In the antireligious atmosphere of Communist Hungary, he served from 1950 on an honorary board of intellectuals established by the Jewish community. His desire to be buried with a yellow star (which Jews were forced to wear in Hungary during the Nazi occupation in March 1944) was honored.

Suggested Reading

Reuben Hersh and Vera John-Steiner, “A Visit to Hungarian Mathematics,” The Mathematical Intelligencer 15.2 (1993): 13–26; Károly Tandori, “Fejér Lipót élete és munkássága,” Matematikai Lapok 28 (1977–1981): 7–11; Pál Turán, “Das Leben von Leopold Fejér, 1880–1959,” in Gesammelte Arbeiten, by Lipót Fejér, vol. 1, pp. 21–27 (Basel and Stuttgart, 1970).