Gyula Iulius Maurer

Born: 18 January 1927 in Târnăveni, Romania
Died: 8 January 2012 in Maglód, near Budapest, Hungary

Gyula Maurer's parents were József Maurer (1883-1955) and Lenke Demeter (1894-1980). Gyula was born in Târnăveni, a town in Transylvania. The town had been Hungarian, with the name Dicsőszentmárton, until the end of World War I when, following the Treaty of Trianon, it had become part of Romania. The town is also sometimes known by its German name of Sankt Martin. Maurer's family were ethnic Hungarians and he grew up as a native Hungarian speaker. Maurer attended secondary school in Cluj (known also by its German name, Klausenburg, and its Hungarian name Kolozsvár) and in Cristuru Secuiesc (Hungarian name Székelykeresztúr) in eastern Transylvania. He then attended Bethlen College in Aiud (Hungarian name Nagyenyed), a town south of Cluj. Bethlen College had been a famous educational establishment since the 17th century but the education there was much changed in character following the Treaty of Trianon. Maurer graduated from Bethlen College in 1945.

In 1946 Maurer began his university studies at Bolyai University in Cluj. There is a quite complicated story of the Hungarian and Romanian universities in Cluj (and even the name of the city of Cluj, which was renamed Cluj-Napoca in the Ceausescu era) and we now give a short history of the Bolyai University that Maurer entered. Cluj had, with the rest of Transylvania, been incorporated into Romania with the Treaty of Trianon in 1919. The University in Cluj, which had been named the Franz Joseph University since 1881, became a Romanian institution and was officially opened as such by King Ferdinand on 1 February 1920. The Hungarian university in Cluj moved first to Budapest, then to Szeged. The university in Cluj was, during these years between the two World Wars, named King Ferdinand I University. In 1940, after the start of World War II, the Hungarian university was moved back from Szeged to Cluj, and the Romanian university in Cluj moved to Sibiu and Timișoara. In 1945, following the end of World War II, the Romanian University returned to Cluj and was named Babeș University (after the Romanian natural scientist Victor Babeș). Parts of the Hungarian university in Cluj moved back to Szeged, while that part which remained in Cluj was named the Bolyai University (after the mathematician János Bolyai). It was given the building that had belonged to Queen Mary Grammar School for girls. Maurer studied mathematics and physics at Bolyai University and his lecturers soon realised that their student was extremely talented. While still an undergraduate he began teaching. There were many changes at this time since Romania became a republic in 1947 and, in the following year, educational reforms impacted the University. Maurer graduated in 1949 and was appointed as a teaching assistant at Bolyai University.

Maurer married Eva Nyilas; they had two children, Gyula (born 1951) and Adám József (born 1954). He taught students in the mathematics and chemistry faculty. László Bitay writes in [1] that the students:-

... quickly took a liking to the young man who enthusiastically and competently taught subjects normally not the favorite of many students. In particular, he aroused the interest of the good students, treating them with great enthusiasm and devotion, without forgetting to help the weaker students.
The educational reforms continued to have a major impact on Bolyai University and several lecturers were removed in 1952. At the same time some students were sent down and there was considerable tensions. Maurer taught algebra courses and in the academic year 1954-55 be gave his course to students of the Hungarian Bolyai University and the students of the Romanian Babeș University. His lecture notes on Algebra were published in 1957. Maurer had been employed as a teaching assistant at first but later he was promoted to assistant professor. He began publishing research articles in 1955 with five papers appearing in that year, all written in Romanian. These are: Remark on multiplicative arithmetic functions; Groups of infinite permutations; Contribution to the study of groups from their quasi-centre; On the notion of power; and On the normal series of the group of generalized infinite permutations. His papers on infinite permutation groups had introduced a topology on these groups and many of his papers over the next few years studied properties of topological groups and rings.

However, in October 1956, there was an uprising against the Soviet-friendly government of the People's Republic of Hungary. This Hungarian Revolution was started by students in Budapest and many students of Bolyai University in Cluj showed their support for it. After the Revolution was put down, there were serious repercussions at Bolyai University with some lecturers and students being put on trial and imprisoned. At this time Maurer lost his job at Bolyai University. In 1959 the Babeș University and the Bolyai University in Cluj joined to became the Babeș-Bolyai University. Again this process was not achieved without opposition from some but after the new Babeș-Bolyai University was created, Maurer was appointed in 1960. He had published some papers in German beginning in 1958, as well as papers in Romanian. For example his German papers included: Eine Topologisierung der Permutationsgruppen einer beliebigen unendlichen Menge (1958); (with Imre Virág) Gewisse Untersuchungen über den Quotientenring eines kommutativen Ringes (1960); Topologische Untersuchung gewisser Substitutionsgruppen (1961); and Über im Endomorphismenringe einer abelschen Gruppe definierte unendliche Reihen und Produkte (1962).

Maurer had been appointed to Bolyai University in 1949 without ever having obtained his doctorate but, after he was appointed to the new Babeș-Bolyai University, he worked towards that degree. His thesis advisor was Grigore C Moisil (1906-1973), from the University of Bucharest, and, in 1967, Maurer was awarded the degree for his thesis Algebraische Strukturen, auf denen Topologien vermittels von Präordnungsrelationen eingeführt sind. He continued teaching at Babeș-Bolyai University, publishing many fascinating articles on topological groups, universal algebras, topological universal algebras, fuzzy sets, fuzzy groups, and rings satisfying polynomial identities. Remarkably, he wrote papers in Hungarian, Romanian, German, French, English, Italian and Russian. We should mention that he wrote several important books in Hungarian, in particular two with Imre Virág, The elements of the theory of relations (1972) and Introduction to the Theory of Structures (1976). He also wrote single-authored books such as Continued fractions and decimals (1981).

In 1984 his sons Gyula Maurer and Adám József Maurer moved from Romania to Hungary. When Maurer retired in the following year from his position at Babeș-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca he followed his sons to Hungary and took up a position at the University of Miskolc (University of Heavy Industry in Miskolc), where he was appointed full professor and director of the Institute of Mathematics. He now wanted to start up a Hungarian mathematics magazine which would be open to all areas of mathematics and to all countries. At this time, however, the countries of Central Europe were in the unfortunate position of being separated by the Iron Curtain from the countries of the West. Undeterred by the political problems, Maurer pressed ahead with his idea, supported by Hans Sachs from the University of Mining and Metallurgy of Leoben in Austria. The events of 1989, when normal relations were re-established between the countries of Europe, made their project considerably easier. In 1990, supported by the Technical University of Miskolc and the University of Leoben, they founded a new journal which they named Mathematica Pannonia. Maurer and Sachs became the first editors of the journal which has produced two issues per years since it was founded. The Journal is described on its website as follows:-

Mathematica Pannonica is a peer-reviewed mathematical journal devoted to the publication of high quality research papers on pure and applied mathematics. The journal was started in 1990, and brings out two issues per annum. The idea of launching a high level international mathematical journal in Austrian-Hungarian cooperation stems from professors I Gy Maurer (Hungary) and H Sachs (Austria). As a result of their initiative the first volume of 'Mathematica Pannonica' was published in 1990. One year later, in 1991, professor G Tironi (Italy) joined the "Founding Fathers" and the journal has became a truly "Pannon" scientific journal (comprising the historical regions of the ancient 'Pannonia Inferior and Pannonia Superior'). The aim of launching this journal was emphasized in the Editorial Preface of the first issue and reads: "Our primary aim is to serve the mathematical community. At the same time it is not a secret that by organizing this journal we wish to contribute to the upgrading of the once flourishing network of cultural ties in the Central European Region." This specific aim has unquestionably been reflected in the composition of the Editorial Board of the journal in the past two decades.
The first paper in the first part of the first volume is by Paul Erdős. Also in this first part are papers by Paul Cohn and, if I may add a personal note, by my [EFR] St Andrews colleague and co-author Tom Blyth.

Maurer died in Maglód, near Budapest, and after being cremated, on 28 January 2012 the urn containing his ashes was buried in the family grave at the Central Házsongárdi Cemetery in Cluj-Napoca.

Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson

March 2014
MacTutor History of Mathematics