(1859 Bakonybánk - 1922 Budapest)
Donát Bánki, one of the greatest Hungarian mechanical engineers and scientists was born on 6 June, 1859 in the village of Bakonybánk, Veszprém county. He was the fourth child of the district physician Ignác Löwinger and Betti Salzer. The family moved to Lovászpatona in 1868.
Donát Bánki finished the elementary school and partly the secondary school in the parental house and passed his exams in Pápa. He finished his high-school studies in district V, Budapest in 1876. In that year he enrolled to the Joseph Technical University and graduated in 1880, getting his degree only in 1893. He became the member of the Hungarian Engineer and Architect Society in 1879.
His extraordinary abilities appeared at the age of 21. His study on gas engines won the 100-forint award of the Technical University. His prize winning paper soon got beyond the country’s borders; it was published in Civilingenieur journal in 1881 titled Zur Ermittlung der vorteilhaftesten Mischungsverhältnisse und Dimensionen der Gasmaschinen. His professors also recognised his talent, Professor Ignác Horváth asked the final year student to be his assistant at the Faculty of Mechanics. In 1881 he was employed at the Hungarian Royal State Railway Machine Works, from 1882 he worked as a designer, head of department, later as engineer-in-chief at the Ganz and Co Iron Casting and Machine Works.
In his first year at the Ganz and Co he patented his first invention, which he outlined in the Bulletin of the Hungarian Engineer and Architect Society in 1885. The Hungarian Engineer and Architect Society awarded the dynamometer with Hollán prize grade II in 1887. At the end of the century he designed the load elevator operated at Boráros Square. The crop reaped in sun-rich south was transported to Budapest, and this huge construction emptied the containers at the riverport of Pest. Unfortunately, this superb machinery was destroyed in World War II.
He played a considerable role in planning the ”Mechwart-type rotary plough” designed by the CEO of the Ganz Works. His suggestions were a major contribution to the fabrication of the device. He was commissioned by the Ganz Works to redesign the internal combustion engines of the Leobersdolf Machine Works purchased in 1886. János Csonka joined this work later on.
In 1892 Bánki published his study titled The Theory of Gas Engines in the Bulletin of Engineer Society, one year later it was published in Germany in the newspaper of the German Engineer Society. His study was awarded with Hollán-prize grade I.
Donát Bánki and János Csonka, the two distinguished experts’s joint undertakings yielded superb outcomes. Their most considerable joint invention is the carburetor. According to word of mouth, they realized the main point of its working system after a long tiring spring day spent experimenting with a new type of petroleum engine at the Technical University. Walking home, they saw a flower girl sprinkling water onto her flowers by blowing spray. They had been trying to find the best structure for two years before they finally handed in the patent application under the title ”Innovation on petroleum engines” on 11 February 1893. The Bánki-Csonka carburetor - together with their first modelled engine – is on exhibition at the National Technical Museum.
Bánki’s another notable result of his theoretical researches concerning internal combustion engines was the recognition od the benefits of big compression and pressure to increase the performance of the internal combustion engines. With the water carburetor Bánki-engine produced in 1893, internal combustion engine power was managed to be increased without any damage to structural components.
In 1898, Bánki was nominated university professor, at the same time head of the Department of Machine Design II at the Technical University. He gave up his activities at the Ganz Works, but his connection with the factory had not ceased, as a technical advisor he helped the workers and engineers. He completed his educational work excellently, he prepared for each lecture with great care using his punctual handwritten notes. Since he followed the developments with constant heed, he built his knowledge acquired from domestic and foreign technical periodicals..
During his professorship, he introduced practical trainings to mechanical engineering education and had laboratories built in order to provide appropriate conditions for scientific research.
In 1901 he started his researches into the area of theoretical and practical problems of steam turbines. It was the time when his two-volume university lecture notes were published under the title ”Practical Hydraulics and Hydro Engines”.
His front wheel drive automobile was completed in 1902, by which he was far ahead of his time. He turned towards flying technique which was in its infancy then. In 1909, he designed an aircraft stabilizer. In 1911, acknowledging his extraordinary results and well-established theoretical work, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences elected him corresponding member. One year later he held his inaugural address titled "Fluid motion in bent conduits".
Between 1914 and 1916 he served as Dean of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the Budapest Technical University, which brought a considerable change in his university career. In 1916, his most well-known work titled ”Energy Transformations in Fluids” was published, which was granted a Cserháti Prize by the Hungarian Association of Engineers and Architects; one year later it was rewarded by the highest distinction of the Association, the Gold Medal.
In 1917, Bánki presented his new invention titled „Neue Wasserturbine”, namely the dual flow water turbine. The partial border turbine was primarily used for exploiting low-flow water energy. Being capable of exploiting low water power, the turbines substituted for the water wheels of the mills and 853 of these items were produced and put into function until 1928.
In 1918 he completed the construction design of the Vaskapu (Iron Gate) power station on the Danube. In 1920, the second edition of his book titled "Energy Transformations in Fluids" was published in printed form.
Donát Bánki died in Budapest on 1 August 1922. After his death, in 1927, his paper on the Bánki turbine was awarded with the ”Grand Prize” by the Academy. The obituary of Donát Bánki, written by Géza Sasvári in 1922, underlines that ”Donát Bánki was one of the greatest: the Siemens, the Carnot, the Poncelet, the Grashof type.”
Bánki’s accomplishments were highly praised both in Hungary and abroad. Serving his memory, a Memorial Medal was founded by the Scientific Society of Mechanical Engineering and the Technical University of Budapest, and a Memorial Plaquette by the ’Donát Bánki’ Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of Budapest Tech, the legal successor of Donát Bánki Technical College. Some of his works are displayed at the Hungarian Museum of Technology and Transport; in addition, the Deutsches Museum in Munich hosts three of his major works, the Mechwart plough, the Bánki engine and the Bánki turbine.
In recognition of his professional and human excellence, his name was adopted by Donát Bánki Polytechnic on 19 December 1954, at the 75th anniversary of the institution. By choosing his name, the institution came to be identified with the idess manifested in the workd of Donát Bánki.