Distinguished theoretical physicist and physics educator George Marx died of cancer on 2 December 2002 in Budapest, Hungary. George was one of the pioneers of astroparticle physics. He was among the first to postulate lepton-charge conservation and to recognize the importance of neutrinos in astrophysics. In his native Hungary in 1972, he organized the first neutrino conference, which, for the next decade, became the meeting ground for physicists on both sides of the iron curtain.

George was born György Marx in Budapest on 25 May 1927. He received his first degree in physics, mathematics, and astronomy at Eötvös Loránd University Budapest in 1950. However, showing early signs of brilliance, he had prepared his PhD thesis before taking the first degree, and was awarded the PhD by the same university later that same year. His thesis, “Nonstatic Gravitational Fields,” was guided by Károly Novobátzky. Six years later, he obtained the habilitation in relativistic dynamics from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

For all his professional life, George was excited about the astrophysical importance of neutrinos. He wrote numerous papers with topics ranging from the solar neutrino puzzle to predicting detectable contributions to the cosmic neutrino flux from radioactivity in Earth’s center. He and his students wrote some of the first papers that identified massive neutrinos as candidates for the dark matter in the universe. In his papers, he tried to make observable predictions and was immensely excited and gratified to see cosmology turning into a precision science.

George devoted his life to physics. He made numerous personal sacrifices during the turbulent political times of his twenties and thirties; he was active in the Hungarian revolution in 1956 and was imprisoned briefly in 1957. In that productive period of his career, travel abroad to meet other physicists was made very difficult: It could take 18 months to obtain travel permission, and then only with letters of invitation from international bodies and promise of full financial support. His telephone remained tapped from 1957 to 1986. Despite those obstacles, he chose to go on doing his internationally respected physics in Hungary. As his career progressed, George did everything to make the life of the next generation of Hungarian physicists easier and to bring Hungary more into the international world of physics. He was one of the organizers of the “triangle” collaboration with Vienna, Austria, and Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, and Budapest, building further bridges between East and West. He was a superb teacher, aware of recent developments in all of physics, full of ideas and generous in sharing them. His numerous students are now scattered throughout the world, carrying on his legacy.

George exhibited a seemingly inexhaustible energy and enthusiasm for physics education. In that area, he was a practical visionary. He saw the need for high-school curricula to deal with ideas from quantum and nuclear physics and from statistical mechanics. He recognized that a new generation might be more impressed by the power of quantum mechanics to explain much of chemistry than they would be interested in its challenge to classical determinism, as it is traditionally presented.

Long before personal computers had invaded Eastern European countries, George insisted on the crucial future importance of computing in physics education, and he himself wrote many imaginative models and simulations. He was one of the first physics educators to recognize the importance of chaos theory and nonlinearity for the school curriculum, a position that led to an amusing exchange with the then communist Hungarian authorities. Authorities had spied conference bags labeled “Chaos in Hungary” (the title of George’s conference) in the streets of East Berlin. The head of security telephoned George to inquire into this act of subversion. George laughed, as did the security chief—a sign to George that the political ice was breaking.

George was also passionately Hungarian. He was intensely proud of his country and his countrymen and their many achievements, but he was at the same time never narrowly nationalistic, being himself totally international in outlook. During the late 1950s and the 1960s, the US and UK both began to create new and more forward-looking high-school physics curricula. George wanted the Eastern European countries to do the same, but in their own way and of their own initiative. To that end, he created a series of “Danube Seminars” to bring together physics educators from Eastern and Western Europe to learn from one another. That series led to an important reform of the Hungarian high-school physics curriculum so that it was structured around the most important ideas in physics. George was confident that Hungarians could attain the highest levels of international excellence, but knew too that to do so, they had to learn from the best of the rest of the world.

In 1997, George became an emeritus professor of physics at the Eötvös Loránd University Budapest. He was president of the Eötvös Loránd Physical Society (1976–80 and 1990–96) and was named a fellow of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1970) and of the Academia Europaea (1983). In 2001, he was awarded the Bragg Medal and Prize by the Institute of Physics, located in London. He received many distinguished international awards.

Over the years, George had a huge influence on physics education in many countries, especially in Africa and Asia. Through him, Chinese and Japanese teachers found common ground with Hungarian teachers. Open to other cultures and ways of life, George earned the respect of schoolteachers throughout the world, and did so with vivacity and spirit. Conference participants whose birthday fell during the week of the conference found themselves serenaded by some of the ever popular itinerant Cigány violinists, a performance arranged by George. How did George know their birthday? Simple: He asked for date of birth on the application form! It is for his vivid humanity that he will be especially remembered.