Who is John Von Neumann?

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  • Written By: Michael Anissimov
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John von Neumann (1903 - 1957) was a Hungarian-born mathematician of Jewish ancestry who made valuable contributions to mathematics, quantum theory, hydrodynamics, set theory, computer science, game theory, functional analysis, decision theory, and economics. John von Neumann spent most of his career, from age 30 until his death at 54, at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, where he was one of the original 4 faculty upon its formation in 1930. The Institute for Advanced Study is an institution supported by grants in which researchers pursue their own goals without the pressure of teaching or sponsorship.

John von Neumann was one of the great mid-20th century intellectuals, rubbing shoulders with J. Robert Oppenheimer, Kurt Gödel, Freeman J. Dyson, Albert Einstein, Alonzo Church, and Alan Turing, at the Institute for Advanced Study. John von Neumann showed brilliance in math at an early age, and possessed a fantastic memory. He was educated in Hungary and Switzerland, and spent 4 years as a private lecturer in Berlin before immigrating to the United States.

John von Neumann's contributions to science and mathematics were numerous. He built the first digital electronic computer (the IAS machine), in 1946, creating the von Neumann computing architecture, the universal architecture used in the majority of PCs today.


In 1944 John von Neumann published Theory of Games and Economic Behavior with Oskar Morgenstern, a book that founded the field of game theory and contributed to decision theory. During WWII, he worked on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. John von Neumann created one of the most rigorous mathematical formulations of quantum mechanics. In hydrodynamics, he devised a simple way to simulate viscosity mathematically, facilitating work in hydrodynamics and aerodynamics.

John von Neumann developed the idea of cellular automata and conducted the first thorough study of the dynamics of self-replicating machines. Von Neumann was also one of the first real programmers, creating a variety of useful algorithms.


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