THE BIOGRAPHY OF JÁNOS NAGYVÁTHY - THE FIRST HUNGARIAN AGRICULTURAL WRITER

2001, 2 (1-2)   p. 34-47

Gábor LUKÁCS, Judit LUKÁCSNÉ PETŐ

Abstract

210 years ago Nagyváthy János published the first systematic, agricultural trade book, called ’Diligent Farmers’ in Hungarian in Pest. This outstanding person of our agricultural history was born on 19th January 1755, in Miskolc. After leaving the Protestant secondary grammar school in Miskolc, he studied law and theology in Sárospatak. At the Protestant secondary grammar school in Losonc he became a ’Subrector’, that is, the the teacher of poetry. Due to a serious illness affecting his eyes he left this job and went to Pest for medical treatment. During the long therapy he visited the lectures of Mitterpacher Lajos, who was the most excellent theoratical agricultural specialist in the country. In 1782 he took military service for four years, in the Duka cavalry regiment, where he reached the rank of a captain and he was garrisoned in Belgium, Italy and Austria. As a commisariat officer he got to know the more developed agriculture of Europe, and it was at that time that he studied agricultural technical literature. In 1786 he had a relapse of his eye disease therefore he left the army and tried to find a cure in Vienna. Here he got acquainted with Jordán Péter, director of the domains of the court, who employed him as an assistant. During the time he spent in the domain of Vöslau, he could completed his academic knowledge with practical experience. In 1788 he moved to Pest where he made friends with Kazinczy, Batsányi, Verseghy and Széchenyi Ferenc, who were the representatives of the most progressive group of nobility. He became the member of the ’Magnanamitas’ Masonic Lodge. In 179o he published four pamphlets anonymously called ’ The change of religion’, ’Civil prediction from the stars’, ’The red friend’, ’Hours of joy in the life of a true Hungarian patriot’. In 1791 he published ’The diligent farmer’ in two volumes on 1213 pages recommending it to the ’sweaty Hungarian farmer’. In this book he wrote about all his experience and the regularities regarding animals and plants discovered by the developing sciences. His main source is ’Elementa rei rusticae’ by Mitterpacher but he also mentioned 51 different books as sources, (34 of them in the section about plant cultivation). Plant cultivation had the same importance and number of pages as in the work of Mitterpacher but animal husbandry had twice as many pages. He wrote about the breeding of all farm animals but it was not the chapters on animal husbandry that pointed ahead but his remarks to help the rationalization of farming and the fact that he wrote about plant cultivation and animal husbandry as a whole. The book made him well-known in the country. He was offered the post of a land steward by Széchenyi Ferenc and Festetics György. Accepting the latter he moved to Keszthely and he took over the management of the domain of 162ooo acres. The earl left the army at that time and started to restore his neglected domain. Nagyváthy’s main task was to improve farm management. He introduced strict accountancy and applied double-entry book-keeping for the first time and Hungary and his main principle was to put down all farming activities in writing. The farm managers were not suitable for this task so he convinced Festetics to found a school for them and an other secondary grammar school in the other centre of the domain in Csurgó. By 1797 the condition of the domain improved significantly and the Earl founded ’Georgikon’ the first agricultural college in Europe though without the land steward who favoured the idea of enlightment (the court in Vienna would not approve it). After the expiration of his contract he retired and moved to Csurgó, where he inspected the secondary grammar school as a secular inspector. He spent the last 22 years of his life here ’hard working in respectable poverty’. He died on 13th February 1819 (according to other sources on 24th). His posthumous books are as follows: ’Hungarian housewife on the farm’ (182o), ’Hungarian Practicus Cultivator’ (1821), ’Hungarian Practicus Breeder’ (1822), ’Hungarian Land Steward’ (1822). In Keszthely and in Csurgó secondary technical scools are called after him, his memory is kept by statues and marble tablets. My aim was to commemorate a scientist, who disappeared into the mists of two centuries, by presenting his life and his main work.

Keywords

diligent farmers, double-entry book keeping, georgicon

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