History of Astronomy : Acta Historica Astronomiae : Vol. 3

The Zach family in Hungary

Magda Vargha, Budapest

Complete text (abstract only):

The Zach Family moved to Hungary. In the first decades of the 18th century the population was so low in Hungary that thousands of people moved into an almost empty country. In 1740 the physician Joseph Zach (1714-1792) came from Moravia to Esztergom which at that time had only 10 000 inhabitants. Soon he became the city doctor. It is very probable, that this was the place where he met Klara Sonntag, who became his wife. In any case, Zach moved to Pest, where he became the city doctor in 1746.

The Invalide-Hospital built by Martinelli in 1726 was the biggest and most elegant house in Pest at that time - and it was giving shelter to 4000 invalids, whilst the city itself had only 11 000 inhabitants. There Zach became the »protomedicus«. In 1751 Austrian Empress Maria Theresia visited this military hospital. She was so impressed by Zach's work that she honoured him with Hungarian nobility in 1765. From the corresponding official paper we know that he had three sons and three daughters. In 1791 he received citizenship in Pest.

The Hungarian Magnates favoured the talented physician. The Lord Chief Justice Count György Fekete was also among his patients. His thirteen year-old son Count János Fekete became the godfather of Zach's son Franz Xaver Zach in 1754. It is very likely that Voltairian Count János Fekete influenced the personality of Franz Xaver von Zach.

Galicia became Austrian Territory in 1772. Pater Liesganig was nominated to lead the Land-Survey Office of Galicia. Anton von Zach and Franz Xaver Zach were his co-workers in this very important task. At the same time Franz Zach became a professor of mechanics at Lemberg University and in its observatory he began his life-long astronomical observations. It is very probable that he joined the Freemasons here together with his godfather, now General, János Fekete. Later they stayed in the same cities very often.

The military and scientific works of the two Zach brothers Anton and Franz were so highly appreciated that they became Hungarian Barons in 1801. These certificates and the official papers proving their father's Joseph Zach's nobility and citizenship give some information about their family circumstances.

For further research it is interesting to study the unpublished papers by Baron Joseph Podmaniczky, Lajos Schedius, and Count János Fekete. They were all close friends in the Freemasons.

Bibliographical details:

Magda Vargha: The Zach family in Hungary. In: Peter Brosche, Wolfgang R. Dick, Oliver Schwarz, Roland Wielen (Eds.): The Message of the Angles - Astrometry from 1798 to 1998. Proceedings of the International Spring Meeting of the Astronomische Gesellschaft, Gotha, May 11-15, 1998. (Acta Historica Astronomiae ; 3). Thun ; Frankfurt am Main : Deutsch, 1998, p. 85.

Html-Version: Wolfgang R. Dick. Created: 21 Jan 1999