People at Parmenides Foundation  Prof. Dr. Eörs Szathmáry

Eörs Szathmáry

Eörs Szathmáry is professor of biology at the Department of Plant Taxonomy and Ecology of Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, where he is also the chairman of the PhD program in evolutionary genetic and conservation biology. He is Director of the Parmenides Center for the Conceptual Foundations of Science at the Parmenides Foundation. Since 2011 Eörs Szathmáry is guest professor at the Faculty of Biology, LMU Munich.

He is on the faculty of the Parmenides Foundation, a member of the Board of The Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research He is the Vice Chairman of the COST CM0703 Action (Systems Chemistry).

His main interest is theoretical evolutionary biology and focuses on the common principles of the major steps in evolution, such as the origin of life, the emergence of cells, the origin of animal societies, and the appearance of human language.

Together with his mentor, John Maynard Smith, he has published two seminal books which serve as the main references in the field (The Major Transitions in Evolution, Freeman, 1995, and The Origins of Life, Oxford University Press, 1999). Both books have been translated into other languages (so far, German, French, Japanese, and Hungarian).

Eörs Szathmáry is on the editorial board of several journals (Journal of Theoretical Biology, Journal of Evolutionary Biology, Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere, Evolutionary Ecology and Evolution of Communication).

He was awarded the New Europe Prize in 1996 by a group of institutes for advanced study. He used the prize to establish the NEST (New Europe School for Theoretical Biology) foundation, whose task is to help young Hungarian theoretical biologists. The Juhász-Nagy junior fellowship that he endowed in 1996 at Collegium Budapest also serves this purpose. He was invited to prestigious institutions, including the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and the College de France. He is a member of Academia Europaea and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Professor Szathmáry's main achievements include:

  • a mathematical description of some phases of early evolution;
  • a scenario for the origin of the genetic code;
  • an analysis of epistasis in terms of metabolic control theory;
  • a demonstration of the selection consequences of parabolic growth;
  • a derivation of the optimal size of the genetic alphabet;
  • a general framework to discuss the major transitions in evolution. Apart from books, he has published numerous papers in important journals, including Nature, Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, and Journal of Theoretical Biology.