Mihajlo Pupin – Biography
Mihajlo Pupin was born on 9 October 1854 in the village of Idvor belonging to the municipality of Kovačica in Banat. Father Konstantin (Kosta) and mother Olimpijada, farmers, had ten children, five sons and five daughters.
After he had finished primary school and partially high school in the autumn of 1872 he enrolled in a school in Prague, Czech Republic, where he continued his education at the sixth grade and the first semester of the seventh grade of the Real Gymnasium (a secondary school with eight grades whose goal is to prepare students for studying hard sciences at universities). He did not study diligently due to his participation in the conflicts between the Czech and German youths and also because he felt homesick. At the age of twenty he went to the USA.
Pupin had a very hard time during the first five years in the USA. He worked as a laborer while simultaneously attending a night school. In the autumn of 1879 he passed the entrance exam at Columbia College in New York. Being an exemplary student he was granted a scholarship, and at the end of the first year he was awarded twice (for mathematics and the Greek language). Mostly he lived off giving private lessons to other students and manual labor.
Upon graduation in 1883 he received a diploma for first degree of academic studies with a Bachelor of Arts title, and a day before that he received American citizenship. He was immediately granted a scholarship, because he was an excellent student, for the studies of mathematics and physics in Cambridge, Great Britain (1883-1885), and then in Berlin (1885-1889), where he obtained a PhD. in the field of physical chemistry with a thesis on ”Osmotic Pressure and its Relationship to Free Energy”.
He started his career as a professor and his scientific career in 1889 as a teacher of physical mathematics at the department of electrotechnics at the Columbia University in New York where he had worked as a teacher and professor for 40 years. He patented 34 inventions.
Pupin was also a successful writer. For his autobiographic piece ”Sa pašnjaka do naučenjaka” (original title ”From Immigrant to Inventor”), published in 1923, he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize one year later, in 1924.
He had never forgotten nor renounced his homeland and he helped Idvor, Serbia and Yugoslavia in various ways.