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Kőrösy, József

(1844–1906), statistician. József Kőrösy was born in Pest to a poor family, and was forced to interrupt his university studies as a consequence of his financial circumstances. He went to work for the Első Magyar Általános Biztosító Társaság (First Hungarian General Insurance Company), and was the economic columnist for the newspapers Pesti Napló (from 1868) and Reform (from 1870). He was appointed director of the Statistical Office of Budapest (Fővárosi Statisztikai Hivatal) in 1870. During the 30 years of his tenure in that position, he developed the agency into a renowned institution.

Kőrösy’s specialized areas were urban statistics and demography. His main studies were on the demography of Budapest, and he was especially interested in issues of public health, mortality, and housing. The nineteenth century saw major theoretical and mathematical innovations in calculating mortality statistics; Kőrösy’s primary contribution in this field was to create a standardized coefficient that could connect the mortality rate of a given territory and the composition of the population by age. His method made him one of the leading demographers of Europe.

Kőrösy was also active in the realm of public health. The first hospital for infectious diseases in Hungary was created in Budapest at his suggestion in 1886, and he advocated the introduction of compulsory vaccinations. In connection with this issue he also introduced a new statistical method, that of the relative intensity ratio. Numerous prestigious European societies for statistics and public health elected him to their organizations. He was ennobled in 1896, granted the nobiliary particle szántói. He had been elected to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences as a corresponding member from 1879 and served as an ordinary member from 1903.

Kőrösy’s grandson described his grandfather as a man who “very often donated large sums for Jewish purposes. He demonstrated that it is also possible in Hungary to be a leader of an important institution as a Jew without having to convert to Christianity . . . and that it is possible to maintain one’s own and one’s family’s Jewish identity without observing the formal commandments” (Kőrösy, 1984).

Although Kőrösy did not devote a study solely to the demography of Jews, he frequently included sections in his works in which he separately marked the demographic characteristics of Jewish communities in given localities. As an assimilated Jew, he was very much interested in the process of Magyarization and assimilation, viewing knowledge of the Hungarian language as the single most important element of the Hungarian national identity. According to this criterion, he found that the Jews of Hungary were highly assimilated, with the exception of those Hasidic Jews in northeastern Hungary and Transylvania. Kőrösy died in Budapest in 1906.

Suggested Reading

László Cseh-Szombathy, “A budapesti szegényügy és statisztikája Kőrösy József szemléletében a XX. század elején,” Statisztikai Szemle 11 (1969): 1140–1147; Ferenc Kőrösy, “A Kőrösy család és a vele kapcsolt családok,” IMIT Évkönyv 1983/1984 (Budapest, 1984): 200–218; Egon Szabady, “A népességtudomány fejlődése Magyarországon,” Statisztikai Szemle 8–9 (1967): 861–883.