Curated Collections of the Most Useful Facts.

What's This?John von Neumann (December 28, 1903–February 8, 1957) was a Hungarian-American mathematician and polymath who made major contributions to a vast number of fields, including set theory, functional analysis, quantum mechanics, ergodic theory, geometry, fluid dynamics, economics, linear programming...as well as many other mathematical fieds.

Curated by

Curated Facts

Through a more rigorous mathematical approach he wanted to find a new theory, more fundamental and powerful that the other two. He abstracted the two systems using an axiomatic approach, in which each logical state is the definite consequence of the previous state. Von Neumann constructed the constructed the rules of "abstract Hilbert space" to aid in his development of a mathematical structure for quantum theory. His formalism of the subject allowed considerable advances to be made by others and even predicted strange new consequences, such as that consciousness and observations alone can affect elections in the laboratory.

John Von Neumann was sent to spend his first two years of higher education in Berlin, in a non-degree chemistry program. He had little interest in either chemistry or engineering but his dad the corporation lawyer was a practical man, and at that time German chemical engineering had been such a success story that the field was regarded as something that almost guaranteed a good living. To occupy his mind productively, that summer he enrolled at the Budapest University as a candidate for an advanced doctorate in mathematics.

John von Neumann, one of this century’s preeminent scientists, along with being a great mathematician and physicist, was an early pioneer in fields such as game theory, nuclear deterrence, and modern computing. His was a mind comfortable in the realms of both man and machine. His kinship with the logical machine was displayed at an early age by his ability to compute the product of two eight-digit numbers in his head.

He was a prodigious child and a prodigious student, and through his brief fifty-three years grew steadily more prodigious. The most startling young innovator among the pure mathematicians of the 1920s, he surged on to leave his mark on theoretical physics and then on dramatically applied physics, on decision theory, on meteorology, on biology, on economics, on deterrence to war - and eventually became, more than any other individual, the creator of the modern digital computer and the most farsighted of those who put it to early use.

From 1940 onwards von Neumann was increasingly involved work. At first he was mainly concerned with ballistics, and the waves caused by explosions, but in 1943 he added an important role in the Manhattan project to develop an atomic bomb.

Unfortunately, John's love for mathematics did not meet with his father's approval when it came to deciding what to study at university. Max Neumann wanted his son to prepare for a career in business. When John made it clear that business studies were not to his liking, father and son settled on chemistry as a compromise subject. And so John entered the University of Berlin to major in chemistry, to please his father, while at the same time enrolling at the University of Budapest to study mathematics.

It was never in question that von Neumann would attend university, and in 1914, at the age of 10, the educational road to the university started at the Lutheran Gymnasium. This was one of the three best institutions of its kind in Budapest at the time and gave von Neumann the opportunity to develop his great intellect. Before he would graduate from this high school he would be considered a colleague by most of the university mathematicians. His first paper was published in 1922, when he was 17, in the Journal of the German Mathematical Society, dealing with the zeros of certain minimal polynomials.

Von Neumann was a child prodigy, born into a banking family is Budapest, Hungary. When only six years old he could divide eight-digit numbers in his head. He received his early education in Budapest, under the tutelage of M. Fekete, with whom he published his first paper at the age of 18. Entering the University of Budapest in 1921, he studied Chemistry, moving his base of studies to both Berlin and Zurich before receiving his diploma in 1925 in Chemical Engineering. He returned to his first love of mathematics in completing his doctoral degree in 1928.

The principal feature of a von Neumann computer is that the program and any data are both stored together, usually in a slow-to-access storage medium such as a hard disk, and transferred as required to a faster, and more volatile storage medium (RAM) for execution or processing by a central processing unit (CPU). Since this how practically all present day computers work, the term "von Neumann architecture" is rarely used now, but it was in common parlance in the computing profession through to the early 1970s. When von Neumann proposed this architecture in 1945, it was a radical idea.

Without him, the computer revolution would not yet have reached its present foothills, from which so many new roads will go. In his last decade the often-terrifying clarity of his mind was at the service of the Truman especially Eisenhower administrations, and a lot of people were scared stiff by that.