János Csonka was born in Szeged on January 22nd 1852, the seventh
child of a reputable, engine-building master blacksmith. Even today
among the millions of petrol engines in use there are engines fitted
with Bánki-Csonka carburettors the basic concept for which they
developed and patented in 1893.
Young János Csonka watched with interest the work that went on
in his father's workshop, where, among other things, medical instruments
were made. He was a first-class student and while at grammar school
learnt German, Latin and French. In 1873 he moved to Budapest and
began working for the Hungarian State Railways.
In 1874 he went to Vienna, where as well as receiving technical
training he also studied natural sciences and broadened his education
in general. Later he worked in Zurich at the world-famous company
of Escher Wyss, followed by 2 years in Paris. It was while he was
in a Parisian print shop that he came across a Lenoir engine and
after examining it carefully Csonka realised the importance of the
internal combustion engine. In England he visited the major industrial
At the age of 25 János Csonka was appointed head of the teaching
workshops of the Technical University of Budapest. The tradesmen
he employed were paid out of his own pocket and with their help
he was able to carry out his studies and to make innovations to
the machines in the teaching workshop. In 1879 he built the first
Hungarian gas engine and in 1882 an engine powered by both gas and
petrol, showing his abilities as an inventor, designer and engineer.
An important stage of his career began when the managing director
of Ganz asked him to put the company's foreign engines in working
order. Csonka together with Ganz's young engineer Donát Bánki, developed
the Bánki-Csonka engines, which were followed by a whole series
of inventions that were developed and patented jointly.Their most
important invention was the carburettor, which was exhibited at
the 1900 World's Fair in Paris.
In addition to his technical achievements János Csonka made a lasting
contribution to the modernisation of the practical side of Hungarian
Higher Education in technical subjects. As well as Donát Bánki and
Robert Bosch he had many friends who were fellow inventors and well-known
university lecturers. In addition to building engines Csonka was
also very interested in motor vehicle design. He designed a postal
vehicle for the Hungarian Post, which was tested on May 31st 1905.
The first Hungarian supercharged engines and engines for fire engines,
motor boats, mine locomotives and rail-cars as well as cars and
buses were designed and manufactured by him. He revolutionised engine
manufacture with innumerable new procedures and ways of using materials
and he was connected with the publication of the first Hungarian
technical dictionary for automobiles.
In 1924, in recognition of his great merits, the Hungarian Society
of Engineers allowed him to use the title of mechanical engineer.
After"retiring" he set up a workshop equipped with machine tools
that he had made himself, where his sons helped him. As an employer
he was also concerned about the wel