The tradition of Greek benefactors is unique. It began before the Greek War of Independence in 1821 when the idea of a Greek independent State first began to be conceived. From the mid 19th century, it has become a part of the social and economic structure of Greece.

The Eugenides Foundation on Sygrou Avenue in Athens owes its existence to one such national benefactor, Eugenios Eugenides. He was born in Didymoteicho (Greek: Διδυμότειχο), Evros, in northeastern Greece, then a part of the Ottoman Empire. Didymoteicho comes from didymos, which means twin and teichos, which means wall.

His father, Agapios Eugenidis, was a senior judge in the Ottoman Empire. He attended the prestigious American Robert College in Constantinople, which he graduated from at the age of twenty. By that time, he had already envisioned the possibility of going to Greece and becoming involved in the shipping business.

His career in shipping began in 1904 at the age of 24 when he began working for a foreign company. He went on to establish his own shipyard in the Golden Horn in Turkey, and after the Asia Minor catastrophe of 1922, he moved to Greece where he established his own shipping company in Piraeus. He bought his first ship, HS Argo in 1937. However, during WWII, it was bombed by a German submarine off the coast of Cape Town and sank. His entrepreneurial instinct gave him the impetus to establish his interests worldwide so that besides being a resourceful timber dealer, representative and owner of international shipping lines, he was a citizen of the world with an unshakeable love for his homeland.

He was very active in philanthropic activities with the aim of supporting vulnerable social groups in the community. With the 1953 earthquake in the Ionian area, he offered a large sum of money for the victims of the earthquake as well as a prefabricated hospital and housing. This philanthropic activity was unknown to most of the people, which continued up to his unexpected death in April 1954. He died at the peak of his entrepreneurial pursuits and was esteemed by all who knew him.

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In his will, he requested that a foundation be set up that would contribute to the scientific and technological education of young people in Greece. In this way, he believed that Greece would have a place among other advanced countries in the various fields of technology and industry. Therefore, the Eugenides Foundation was established in 1956 on Sygrou Avenue in Athens. The opening of the building took place on 7 June 1965 in the presence of the country’s political and intellectual leaders. The Hellenic Post issued special first day cover stamps to commemorate the event. The periodical Argo said: “Our country had long lacked a palace for education in science and technology. It has just recently acquired one. The generosity of the national patron Eugenios Eugenides has made amends for the powerlessness of our national financial want”.

To implement his decision and to ensure that his life’s work would continue and expand after his passing, he assigned his sister, Marianthi Simou, to execute the terms of his will and to manage the Foundation’s fortune. On her death in 1981, she also bequeathed her fortune to the purposes of the Foundation.

The Eugenides Foundation, besides granting scholarships to young graduates, writing, and publishing technical education books, has a Technological Centre in which the following operate:

  • Technical and Scientific Library
  • Halls for physics experiments and technology displays
  • A Planetarium
  • Auditorium and other halls where scientific and technical conferences take place.

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Description automatically generated The Planetarium is the highlight of a visit to the Eugenides Foundation. It is not only the first in Greece, but also the only one in south-eastern Europe. It is an outstanding attraction for students and the public alike. Since 1966, it has developed into a centre for all sciences, education, and entertainment. It has taken advantage of the technological and creative capabilities of its audio-visual equipment to tell the story of science in the most impressive and entertaining way possible.

The Academy of Athens awarded the Eugenios Foundation the Gold Medal, its highest honorary distinction in 1965.


Despena Dalmaris

As a teacher of English, writing has always been a part of my life. As a Greek-Australian, I have always been interested in the history, culture and traditions of my country of origin, Greece. That is why I began writing short articles on the different places that I visited and the various activities that I took part in. I have shared my articles with many friends and the internet now gives me the opportunity to share these articles with you.