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John von Neumann |

Near the end of 1929, von Neumann was offered a visiting lectureship on quantum theory at Princeton University and by 1931 he was appointed full-time professor. In 1933 he was asked to be one of the original six Professors of Mathematics at the newly founded Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton. He retained this position for the rest of his life. John von Neumann was perhaps the twentieth century most brilliant mathematician, transforming every subject he touched. He made fundamental contributions to quantum mechanics, functional analysis, and mathematical logic. He invented whole other fields, like game theory. The von Neumann architecture of the digital computer still dominates the field. With regard to complex systems, von Neumann is best remembered for his seminal work on cellular automata and the insights these computational systems provide for self-reproduction. About twenty of John von Neumann's 150 papers are in physics; the rest are distributed more or less evenly among pure mathematics (mainly set theory, logic, topological group, measure theory, ergodic theory, operator theory, and continuous geometry) and applied mathematics (statistics, numerical analysis, shock waves, flow problems, hydrodynamics, aerodynamics, ballistics, problems of detonation, meteorology, and two nonclassical aspects of applied mathematics, games and computers). His publications show a break from pure to applied research around 1940 (Encyclopedia Britannica 1995). During his career, John von Neumann was elected to many academies including the Academia Nacional de Ciencias Exactas (Lima, Peru), Academia Nazionale dei Lincei (Rome, Italy), American Academy of Arts and Sciences (USA), American Philosophical Society (USA), Instituto Lombardo di Scienze e Lettere (Milan, Italy), National Academy of Sciences (USA) and Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences and Letters (Amsterdam, The Netherlands). John Von Neumann was diagnosed with cancer in August of 1955 and died on 18 months later.
"The sciences do not try to explain, they hardly even try to interpret, they mainly make models. By a model is meant a mathematical construct which, with the addition of certain verbal interpretations, describes observed phenomena. The justification of such a mathematical construct is solely and precisely that it is expected to work." "The most vitally characteristic fact about mathematics is, in my opinion, its quite peculiar relationship to the natural sciences, or more generally, to any science which interprets experience on a higher than purely descriptive level. "
Charney, J. G., R. Fjörtoft and John von Neumann. 1950. "Numerical Integration of the Barotropic Vorticity Equation", Tellus, Vol. 2, pp. 237-254. Taub, A. H. (ed).
1961-63. von Neumann, John
and Oskar Morgenstern. 1944. von Neumann, John.1932.
von Neumann, John.
30 June 1945. First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC, Contract No. W-670-ORD-492,
Moore School of Electrical Engineering, Univ. of Penn., Philadelphia.
Reprinted (in part) in Randell, Brian. 1982. von Neumann, John. 1946. "The Principles of Large-Scale Computing Machines", reprinted in Ann. Hist. Comp., Vol. 3, No. 3, pp. 263-273. von Neumann, John.
1958. von Neumann, John
and Arthur W. Burks. 1966.
Aspray, William.
1990. Aspray, William.
1987. "The Mathematical Reception of the Modern Computer: John
von Neumann and the Institute for Advanced Study Computer", in
Phillips, Esther R. (ed), Aspray, William,
and Arthur W. Burkes, eds. 1987. Bigelow, Julian.
1980. "Computer Development at the Institute for Advanced Study",
in Metropolis, N., J. Howlett, and Gian-Carlo Rota. 1980. Birkhoff, G. et al. 1958. "Memorial Papers on John von Neumann", Bull. AMS, Vol. 64, No. 3, Pt. 2. Bochner, Salomon.
1958. "John von Neumann", Dieudonné,
J. 1981 "Von Neumann, Johann (or John)", in Gillespie, Charles
C. Goldstine, Herman
H. 1972. Heims, Steve J.
1980. Hurd, Cuthbert. 1981. "Early IBM Computers: Edited Testimony", Ann. Hist. Comp., Vol. 3. No. 1., pp. 163-182. Macrae, Norman.
1992. Poundstone, William.
1992. Ritchie, David.
1986. Slater, Robert.
1987. Stern, Nancy. 1981.
Stern, Nancy. 1980. "John von Neumann's Influence on Electronic Digital Computing, 1944-46", Ann. Hist. Comp., Vol. 2, No. 4, pp. 349-362. Tropp, H. S. 1983.
"John von Neumann" in Ralston, Anthony, and Edwin D. Reilly,
Jr. 1983. Ulam, S. M. 1980.
"Von Neumann: The Interaction of Mathematics and Computing",
in Metropolis, N., J. Howlett, and Gian-Carlo Rota. 1980. Ulam, S. April 1982. "John von Neumann, 1903-1957", Ann. Hist. Comp., Vol. 4, No. 2. Vonneuman, Nicholas
A. 1988.
University of Budapest,
1921
Privatdozent, University
of Berlin, 1927-30
D.Sc. (Hon), Princeton
University, 1947 Return to the ISCID essay contest page. |