I recently spoke with someone claiming that the tail end of the decline of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was especially a fertile breeding ground for inventors and entrepreneurs, especially in the 1920s and ’30s. This may have been due to some combination of easy capital from a declining noble class and good, widely available education.
There certainly were some exceptional people of Austrian and Hungarian extraction during that time (Theodore von Kármán, Hedy Lamar), but it is not clear to me that the core claim is true.
Unfortunately, I am not sure how to evaluate this. I have read some sources (the early chapters of a biography of Kármán, Wikipedia) which are consistent with that claim, but don’t really support it. There also seem to be a disproportionate number of Hungarian recipients of Nobel prizes, though I’m not sure what to take from that. I can also see some support for that view in popular culture, like The Sound of Music and My Fair Lady, though it’s all in offhand remarks. (Also, pop culture is hardly an objective lens).
I am not sure where to look deeper. It’s easy to find political histories that cover that time period, but I can’t find any indication which (if any) would cover the economic and cultural aspects.
So, a great answer would hit three points:
- Were Austria and Hungary producing a notable number of STEM-types who were active in 1920-1950? (Including expats).
- If so, is it clear why?
- How could I investigate further? (Especially looking for authoritative works or books focused on this topic that I’ve missed).