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Hungarian Roots: Charles Simonyi, The Inventor Of Microsoft Excel And Word And The Second Hungarian Who Traveled In The Space

Robert Velkey 2016.10.06.

In our weekly series, we write about celebrities – artists, actors, musicians, sport stars and scientists – who have some Hungarian origin, yet only few would consider them as “par excellence Hungarians”. In many cases even the persons concerned know/knew only very little about their Hungarian roots, while others are/were proud of their “Magyar” background despite lacking the ability to speak the language of their parents or grandparents. Our thirty-second target is: 

Charles Simonyi Hungarian-born American computer programmer, businessman and space tourist, who “invented the Microsoft Excel and the Microsoft Word”.

Charles Simony (original name: Simonyi Károly) American-Hungarian software executive and space tourist was born on the 10th of September. Mr Simonyi was born in Budapest, Hungary son of (older) Károly Simonyi, a professor of electrical engineering at the Technical University of Budapest. The young Charles had shown an interest in computing. While in secondary school he worked part-time as a night watchman at a computer laboratory in early 1960’s, he learned to program from one of the laboratory’s engineers.


By the time he left school, he had learned to develop compilers and sold one of these to a government department. He presented a demonstration of his compiler to the members of a Danish computer trade delegation. Once he said when he was young his dream was, “to get out of Hungary, go to the West and be free.” In 1966 he reached his dream as he left Hungary to work at the Danish computer company Regnecentralen.


Charles Simonyi graduated from the University of California, Berkley, with a degree in engineering mathematics and later earned a doctorate in computer science from Stanford University. After he created a text editor at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center he joined the Microsoft Corporation in 1981. This tome He was head of Microsoft’s application software group, where he oversaw the creation of Microsoft’s flagship Office suite of applications. In addition, at Microsoft he led the development of the widely used software applications Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word. Mr. Simonyi left Microsoft to found his own firm in 2002. He now heads his own company, Intentional Software.


In 2007, with his first trip in the space he became the fifth paying traveler sent into space. Also, he was the second Hungarian in space. After a six-month training program at the Yury Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, Russia, Simonyi launched into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard Soyuz TMA-10 on April 7, 2007, with two Russian cosmonauts, On April 9 he arrived at the International Space Station (ISS), where he spent 11 days performing scientific experiments and communicating via amateur radio with high school students. Simonyi used his Hungarian call sign HA5SIK when he contacted 25 radio amateurs from Hungary in a record attempt on April 12. He contacted former and current students of Tivadar Puskás Polytechnic, Budapest on April 13.


On March 26, 2009, he lifted off with Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka and U.S. astronaut Michael Barratt aboard Soyuz TMA-14, a flight to the ISS that made Simonyi the first repeat space tourist.

To learn more about the great Hungarian-born inventor and his work, watch the “The history of microsoft the Charles Simonyi story”;



Previously on Hungarian Roots:

Tim Howard, goalkeeper for English club Everton and US national team

Rachel Weisz, English film and theatre actress and former fashion model

Alanis Morissette, Canadian alternative rock singer-songwriter and actress

Gene Simmons, musician, songwriter, guitarist and co-lead singer of rock band KISS

Béla Lugosi, Hungarian-American actor, famous for portraying Count Dracula in 1931

Kesha, US singer, songwriter and rapper

Louis C. K., world-famous US comedian

Adrien Brody, Oscar-winning American actor

Joaquin Phoenix, Grammy and Golden Globe-winning US actor

Don Shula, Legendary American football coach

Drew Barrymore, US actress, model and producer

Paul Simon, American songwriter, singer and guitarist

Uri Geller, Israeli illusionist and self-proclaimed “psychic”

Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson, American actress

Hungarian Roots: Andy Vajna, Hungarian-American Film Producer Of The “Terminator” Series

Joe Eszterhas, Top Hollywood Screenwriter

Edward Teller, “Father of the Hydrogen Bomb”

Harry Houdini, Hungarian-Americal magician, illusionist, escapologist and stunt performer

Peter Falk, world-famous American actor known as lieutenant Culumbo

William Fox, the man who forgot to sleep and founded 20th Century Fox

Tommy Ramone, drummer of cultic punk rock band “The Ramones’

George Pataki, former three-term governor of New York

Michael “Flea” Balzary, founding member and bassist of rock band Red Hot Chilli Peppers

The greatest war photographer in the world, Robert Capa

Victor Vasarely, Hungarian-French painter known as the grandfather of the “op-art” movement

Monica Seles, former world-class tennis player

Mark Knopfler, frontman of rock band dire straits

Nimród E. Antal, film director, screenwriter and actor from LA

Joseph Pulitzer, the father of the world famous award

Nicholas Sarkozy France 23rd President from 2007-2012

American Fashion King, Calvin Klein

Michael Kovats de Fabriczy the founding father of the U.S. Cavalry