John von Neumann

Hungarian-American mathematician and physicist (1903–1957) / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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John von Neumann (/vɒn ˈnɔɪmən/ von NOY-mən; Hungarian: Neumann János Lajos [ˈnɒjmɒn ˈjaːnoʃ ˈlɒjoʃ]; December 28, 1903 – February 8, 1957) was a Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, computer scientist, engineer and polymath. He had perhaps the widest coverage of any mathematician of his time,[9] integrating pure and applied sciences and making major contributions to many fields, including mathematics, physics, economics, computing, and statistics. He was a pioneer of the application of operator theory to quantum mechanics in the development of functional analysis, the development of game theory and the concepts of cellular automata, the universal constructor and the digital computer. His analysis of the structure of self-replication preceded the discovery of the structure of DNA.

Quick facts: John von Neumann, Member of the United States...
John von Neumann
von Neumann in the 1940s
Member of the United States Atomic Energy Commission
In office
March 15, 1955  February 8, 1957
PresidentDwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded byEugene M. Zuckert
Succeeded byJohn S. Graham
Personal details
Neumann János Lajos

(1903-12-28)December 28, 1903
Budapest, Kingdom of Hungary, Austria-Hungary
DiedFebruary 8, 1957(1957-02-08) (aged 53)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Resting placePrinceton Cemetery
  • Hungary
  • United States
Alma mater
  • Marietta Kövesi
    (m. 1930; div. 1937)
  • (m. 1938)
ChildrenMarina von Neumann Whitman
Scientific career
FieldsLogic, mathematics, mathematical physics, theoretical physics, statistics, economics, computer science, theoretical biology, chemistry
ThesisAz általános halmazelmélet axiomatikus felépítése (The axiomatic construction of general set theory) (1925)
Doctoral advisor
Other academic advisors
Doctoral students
Other notable students

During World War II, von Neumann worked on the Manhattan Project on 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.[10] Before and after the war, he consulted for many organizations including the Office of Scientific Research and Development, the Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory, the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.[11] At the peak of his influence in the 1950s, he chaired a number of Defense Department committees including the Strategic Missile Evaluation Committee and the ICBM Scientific Advisory Committee. He was also a member of the influential Atomic Energy Commission in charge of all atomic energy development in the country. He played a key role alongside Bernard Schriever and Trevor Gardner in the design and development of the United States' first ICBM programs.[12] At that time he was considered the nation's foremost expert on nuclear weaponry and the leading defense scientist at the Pentagon. He designed and promoted the policy of mutually assured destruction to limit the arms race.[13]

Von Neumann's contributions and intellectual ability drew praise from colleagues in physics, mathematics, and beyond. Accolades he received range from the Medal of Freedom to a crater on the Moon named in his honor.