Paul Felix Nemenyi (June 5, 1895 – March 1, 1952) was a Hungarian mathematician and physicist specializing in continuum mechanics. In continuum mechanics, he is known for his "Nemenyi's theorem." He was the father of the statistician Peter Nemenyi and probably the father of Bobby Fischer.
Neményi was born to a wealthy Hungarian Jewish family on June 5, 1895 in Rijeka. His father Desiderius Nemenyi was one of the directors at Rijeka Refinery. Nemenyi attended elementary and high school in Rijeka and graduated from high school in Budapest..
At the age of 17, Nemenyi won the Hungarian national mathematics competition. Nemenyi obtained his doctorate in mathematics in Berlin in 1922 and lectured on fluid dynamics at the Technical University of Berlin. In the early 1930s, he published a textbook on mathematical mechanics that became required reading in German universities. Stripped of his position when the Nazis came to power, he also had to leave Hungary where anti-Semitic laws had been enacted, and found work for a time in Copenhagen.
He arrived in the USA at the outbreak of World War II and briefly held a number of teaching positions in succession and took part in hydraulic research at the State University of Iowa. In 1941 he was appointed instructor at the University of Colorado, and in 1944 at the State College of Washington.
In Germany, Nemenyi belonged to a Socialist party called the ISK, which believed that truth could be arrived at through neo-Kantian Socratic principles. He was an animal-rights supporter, who was a strict vegan and refused to wear anything made of wool. In 1930, Nemenyi entrusted his 3 year old first son, Peter Nemenyi, to be looked after by the socialist vegetarian community, visiting him once a year.
Theodore von Kármán wrote of Nemenyi: "When he came to this country, he went to scientific meetings in an open shirt without a tie and was very much disappointed as I advised him to dress as anyone else. He told me that he thought this was a country of freedom, and the man is only judged according to his internal values and not his external appearance."
In 1947 Nemenyi was appointed a physicist with the Naval Ordnance Laboratory, White Oak, Maryland. He was head of the Theoretical Mechanics Section at the laboratory and one of the country's principal authorities on elasticity and fluid dynamics.
Nemenyi's scientific knowledge extended well beyond the subjects of his researches. He has been described as having extremely versatile interests and erudition and his interest and ability encompassed several nonscientific fields. He collected children's art and sometimes lectured on it. In 1951, he published a critique of the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, and suggested improvements for such diverse sections as psychology and psychoanalysis.
Nemenyi died on March 1, 1952, at the age of 56. He was survived by two sons: Peter Nemenyi, then a student of mathematics at Princeton University and Bobby Fischer, the world chess champion. In 2002 Nemenyi was identified as the probable biological father of Fischer, not the man named on Fischer's birth certificate.
- Chasing the king of chess – LA Times article dated September 21, 2009
- FBI targeted chess genius Bobby Fischer and his mother – Telegraph article November 24, 2002
- Among Bobby Fischer's many mysteries: Chess champ's own father – CNN article dated July 7, 2010.
- Searching for Bobby Fischer's Brilliance American Power article dated September 21, 2009. Interesting...shown is Paul Nemenyi's petition for U.S. naturalization, including a 1940 photo.