John von Neumann

John von Neumann (/vɒn ˈnɔɪmən/; Hungarian: Neumann János Lajos, pronounced [ˈnɒjmɒn ˈjaːnoʃ ˈlɒjoʃ]; December 28, 1903 – February 8, 1957) was a Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, computer scientist, engineer and polymath. Von Neumann was generally regarded as the foremost mathematician of his time[2] and said to be "the last representative of the great mathematicians".[3] He integrated pure and applied sciences.

John von Neumann
John von Neumann in the 1940s
Born
Neumann János Lajos

(1903-12-28)December 28, 1903
DiedFebruary 8, 1957(1957-02-08) (aged 53)
Washington, D.C., United States
CitizenshipHungary
United States
Alma materPázmány Péter University
ETH Zürich
University of Göttingen
Known for
+79 more
Spouse(s)Marietta Kövesi
Klara Dan
ChildrenMarina von Neumann Whitman
AwardsBôcher Memorial Prize (1938)
Navy Distinguished Civilian Service Award (1946)
Medal for Merit (1946)
Medal of Freedom (1956)
Enrico Fermi Award (1956)
Scientific career
FieldsMathematics, physics, statistics, economics, computer science
InstitutionsUniversity of Berlin
Princeton University
Institute for Advanced Study
Los Alamos Laboratory
ThesisAz általános halmazelmélet axiomatikus felépítése (Axiomatic construction of general set theory) (1925)
Doctoral advisorLipót Fejér
Other academic advisorsLászló Rátz
David Hilbert
Doctoral studentsDonald B. Gillies
Israel Halperin
Friederich Mautner
Other notable studentsPaul Halmos
Clifford Hugh Dowker
Benoit Mandelbrot[1]
Signature

Von Neumann made major contributions to many fields, including mathematics (foundations of mathematics, functional analysis, ergodic theory, group theory, representation theory, operator algebras, geometry, topology, and numerical analysis), physics (quantum mechanics, hydrodynamics, and quantum statistical mechanics), economics (game theory), computing (Von Neumann architecture, linear programming, self-replicating machines, stochastic computing), and statistics. He was a pioneer of the application of operator theory to quantum mechanics in the development of functional analysis, and a key figure in the development of game theory and the concepts of cellular automata, the universal constructor and the digital computer.

Von Neumann published over 150 papers in his life: about 60 in pure mathematics, 60 in applied mathematics, 20 in physics, and the remainder on special mathematical subjects or non-mathematical ones.[4] His last work, an unfinished manuscript written while he was in the hospital, was later published in book form as The Computer and the Brain.

His analysis of the structure of self-replication preceded the discovery of the structure of DNA. In a shortlist of facts about his life he submitted to the National Academy of Sciences, he wrote, "The part of my work I consider most essential is that on quantum mechanics, which developed in Göttingen in 1926, and subsequently in Berlin in 1927–1929. Also, my work on various forms of operator theory, Berlin 1930 and Princeton 1935–1939; on the ergodic theorem, Princeton, 1931–1932."[citation needed]

During World War II, von Neumann worked on the Manhattan Project with theoretical physicist Edward Teller, mathematician Stanislaw Ulam and others, problem-solving key steps in the nuclear physics involved in thermonuclear reactions and the hydrogen bomb. He developed the mathematical models behind the explosive lenses used in the implosion-type nuclear weapon and coined the term "kiloton" (of TNT) as a measure of the explosive force generated. After the war, he served on the General Advisory Committee of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, and consulted for organizations including the United States Air Force, the Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory, the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. As a Hungarian émigré, concerned that the Soviets would achieve nuclear superiority, he designed and promoted the policy of mutually assured destruction to limit the arms race.