Erno Rubik was born in Budapest, Hungary, 13 July 1944, during World War II, and has lived all his life in Hungary. His father, Erno Rubik Sr., was a flight engineer at the Esztergom aircraft factory, and his mother, Magdolna Szanto, was a poet.
His father, Erno Sr., was a highly respected engineer of gliders. His extensive work and expertise in this area gained him an international reputation as an expert in his field. Erno Rubik has stated that:
From 1958 to 1962, Rubik specialised in sculpture at the Secondary School of Fine and Applied Arts. From 1962 to 1967, Rubik attended the Budapest University of Technology where he became a member of the Architecture Faculty. From 1967 to 1971, Rubik attended the Hungarian Academy of Applied Arts and was on the Faculty of Interior Architecture and Design.
Rubik considers university and the education it afforded him as the decisive event which shaped his life. Rubik has stated that, "Schools offered me the opportunity to acquire knowledge of subjects or rather crafts that need a lot of practice, persistence and diligence with the direction of a mentor."
From 1971 to 1979, Rubik was a professor of architecture at the Budapest College of Applied Arts (Iparmuveszeti Foiskola). It was during his time there that he built designs for a three-dimensional puzzle and completed the first prototype of the Rubik's Cube in 1974, applying for a patent on the puzzle in 1975. In an interview with CNN, Rubik stated that he was "searching to find a good task for my students."
Starting with blocks of wood and rubber bands, Rubik set out to create a structure which would allow the individual pieces to move without the whole structure falling apart. Rubik originally used wood for the block because of the convenience of a workshop at the university and because he viewed wood as a simple material to work with that did not require sophisticated machinery. Rubik made the original prototypes of his cube by hand, cutting the wood, boring the holes and using elastic bands to hold the contraption together
Rubik showed his prototype to his class and his students liked it very much. Rubik realized that, because of the cube's simple structure, it could be manufactured relatively easily and might have appeal to a larger audience. Rubik's father possessed several patents, so Rubik was familiar with the process and applied for a patent for his invention. Rubik then set out to find a manufacturer in Hungary, but had great difficulty due to the rigid planned economy of Hungary at the time. Eventually Rubik was able to find a small company that worked with plastic and made chess pieces. The cube was originally known in Hungary as the Magic Cube.
Rubik licensed the Magic Cube to Ideal Toys, a New York-based company, who in 1979 rebranded The Magic Cube to the Rubik's Cube before its introduction to an international audience in 1980. The process from early prototype to significant mass production of the Cube had taken over six years. The Rubik's Cube would go on to become an instant success worldwide, winning several Toy of the Year awards, and becoming a staple of 1980's popular culture. To date, the Rubik's Cube has sold over 350 million units, making it the best selling toy of all time.
In addition to Rubik's Cube, Rubik is also the inventor of Rubik's Magic, Rubik's Magic: Master Edition, Rubik's Snake, Rubik's Tangle, and Rubik's 360.
In the early 1980s, he became editor of a game and puzzle journal called ..Es jatek (...And games), then became self-employed in 1983, founding the Rubik Studio, where he designed furniture and games. In 1987 he became professor with full tenure; in 1990 he became the president of the Hungarian Engineering Academy (Magyar Mernoki Akademia). At the Academy, he created the International Rubik Foundation to support especially talented young engineers and industrial designers.
Rubik has recently spent much of his time working on Beyond Rubik's Cube, a Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM fields) based exhibition, which will travel the globe over the next six years. The grand opening of the exhibit was held on 26 April 2014 at the Liberty Science Center outside New York City. At the exhibition, Rubik gave several lectures, tours, and engaged with the public and several members of the speedcubing crowd in attendance, including Anthony Michael Brooks, a world-class speedcuber.
Erno Rubik has listed several individuals who, as he said, "exerted a great influence over me through their work." These include Leonardo da Vinci, whom Rubik regards as the Renaissance man, Michelangelo, whom he respects as a polymath, and painter, sculptor, and architect M.C. Escher, an artist who built impossible constructions and grappled with the explorations of infinity. As regards to philosophers and writers, Rubik admires Voltaire, Stendhal, Thomas Mann, Jean-Paul Sartre, Hungarian poet Attila Jozsef, Jules Verne and Isaac Asimov. In the field of architecture, Rubik is an admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier.
Rubik admits to being a lifelong bibliophile and has stated, "Books offered me the possibility of gaining knowledge of the World, Nature and People." Rubik has stated that he has a special interest in science fiction.
Rubik is fond of outdoor activities such as walking through nature, playing sports, and sailing on Lake Balaton. Rubik is also an avid gardener and has stated that, "collecting succulents are my favourite pastime."1978 – Budapest International Trade Fair, Prize for the Cube
1980 – Toy of the Year: Federal Republic of Germany, United Kingdom, France, USA
1981 – Toy of the Year: Finland, Sweden, Italy
1982 – Toy of the Year: United Kingdom (second time)
1982 – The Museum of Modern Art, New York selected Rubik's Cube into its permanent collection
1983 – Hungarian State Prize for demonstrating and teaching 3D structures and for the various solutions that inspired scientific researches in several ways
1988 – Juvenile Prize from the State Office of Youth and Sport
1995 – Denes Gabor Prize from the Novofer Foundation as an acknowledgement of achievements in the field of innovation
1996 – Anyos Jedlik Prize from the Hungarian Patent Office
1997 – Prize for the Reputation of Hungary (1997)
2007 – Kossuth Prize the most prestigious cultural award in Hungary
2008 – Moholy-Nagy Prize – from the Moholy-Nagy University of Arts and Design
2009 – EU Ambassador of the Year of Creativity and Innovation
2010 – USA Science and Engineering Festival Award (Outstanding Contribution to Science Education)
2010 – The Hungarian Order of Merit Commanders Cross with the Star
2010 – Prima Primissima Prize
2012 – My Country Awards
2014 - Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Stephen. (The highest medal awarded by Hungary)
2014 - Honorary Citizen of Budapest
Editor and co-author of A buvos kocka ("The Magic Cube"), Muszaki Kiado, Budapest, 1981.
Co-author of The Rubik's Cube Compendium (written by David Singmaster, Erno Rubik, Gerzson Keri, Gyorgy Marx, Tamas Varga and Tamas Vekerdy), Oxford University Press, 1987.
He attended the 2007 World Championship in Budapest. He also gave a lecture and autograph session at the "Bridges-Pecs" conference ("Bridges between Mathematics and the Arts") in July 2010.
Rubik is a member of the USA Science and Engineering Festival's Advisory Board.