John Von Neumann

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John Von Neumann
John von Neumann
John von Neumann in the 1940s
Birthday/Birthplace Neumann János Lajos
(1903-12-28)December 28, 1903
Budapest, Austria-Hungary
Deceased February 8, 1957(1957-02-08)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Citizenship Hungary, United States
College(s) University of Pázmány Péter
ETH Zürich
Credit for


Wife/Husband Mariette Kövesi
Klara Dan
Kid(s) Marina von Neumann Whitman
Awards Won Bôcher Memorial Prize (1938)
Navy Distinguished Civilian Service Award (1946)
Medal for Merit (1946)
Medal of Freedom (1956)
Enrico Fermi Award (1956)
Scientific career
Fields Mathematics, physics, statistics, economics, computer science
Institutions University of Berlin
Princeton University
Institute for Advanced Study
Los Alamos Laboratory
Thesis Az általános halmazelmélet axiomatikus felépítése (The general structure of the axiomatic set theory) (1925)
Doctoral advisor Lipót Fejér
Other academic advisors László Rátz
Doctoral students Donald B. Gillies
Israel Halperin
Other notable students Paul Halmos
Clifford Hugh Dowker
Benoit Mandelbrot

John von Neumann (registered at birth as Neumann János Lajos ; Budapest, Austro-Hungarian Empire, December 28, 1903-Washington, DC, United States, February 8 1957) was a Hungarian-American mathematician who made fundamental contributions in quantum physics, functional analysis, set theory, game theory, computer science, economics, numerical analysis, cybernetics, hydrodynamics, statistics and many other fields. considered one of the most important mathematicians in modern history.

John Von Neumann’s Biography

First years (1903-1928)

Neumann János Lajos was born in Budapest in 1903, when this city belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father, Max Neumann, was a Jewish banker who had married Margaret Kann, daughter of a wealthy Pest family. John, who in Hungary already used the Germanized form of his name, Johann von Neumann, was the oldest of three brothers and at age ten he began studying at the Lutheran College in Budapest. His teachers soon realized his talent and recommended that he receive private math classes taught by university professors.

John was a gifted and won the Eötvös award for the best student in the country in mathematics and science. His enormous intelligence would later become legendary. Schoolmate a class above him was the future Nobel Prize in Physics Eugene Wigner, who would be his lifelong friend and to whom the conversations he had with von Neumann at that time discouraged from engaging in mathematics: “Having met János von Neumannrealized the difference between a first-class mathematician and myself ».

In 1919, at the end of the First World War, his family left Hungary during the revolutionary era that culminated with the communist government of Béla Kun. On his return, in 1921, John was admitted to the University of Budapest where he would finish his doctorate in mathematics in 1926. He was studying at the same time in Berlin, and he received some classes from Albert Einstein, in the company of other Hungarian colleagues such as Wigner, Leó Szilárd and Dennis Gabor. He also enrolled at the Federal Polytechnic School of Zurich, where in 1925 he obtained a degree in chemical engineering and met figures such as Hermann Weyl and George Pólya. Finally he also attended the seminars of David Hilbert in Göttingen, where he coincided with Robert Oppenheimer, with whom he would meet again later in Princeton. At 24 he became Privatdozent of mathematics at the University of Berlin.

It is highly probable that already in Gottingen, the mecca of mathematicians at that time, knew Norbert Wiener between 1924 and 1926.

First trips and emigration to the United States (1929-1938)

In 1929 Princeton University offered von Neumann and Wigner an invitation for a semester and there he went accompanied by his girlfriend Mariette Koevesi, with whom he would marry that same year and would have in 1935 a daughter, Marina, who would arrive In the following years, he alternated his stays between Germany and the United States, but in 1933 the arrival of the Nazis in power made the Jewish professors progressively expelled from their positions. Von Neumann found the facility to be established in the United States and that the Institute of Advanced Studies of Princeton began operating that same year, and was chosen as one of the first professors along with Albert Einstein, Oswald Veblen, Hermann Weyl and James W. Alexander.

Although they had an intense social life and their house in Princeton was a regular meeting place for social parties, their marriage relationship deteriorated and eventually ended up divorcing Mariette in 1937. The following year he traveled to Europe and gave lectures in He exchanged ideas with scientists such as Niels Bohr, with whom he met in Copenhagen. He also visited his family in Hungary and, before returning to the United States, he married his Hungarian friend Klara Dan.

The Second World War and the Manhattan Project (1939-1945)

The following year the Second World War broke out and the North American government launched the famous Manhattan Project, to which von Neumann joined in 1943, along with Eugene Wigner and Leó Szilárd, also exiled Hungarians. His most important contribution was in the design of the implosion method, which was used in Alamogordo, the first detonation of an atomic bomb in history, and which would later be used again in Nagasaki.

The American Atomic Program and Final Years (1946-1957)

His contribution to the North American atomic program ended up going far beyond scientific contributions. He was chosen by General Leslie Groves, the highest military authority in charge of the Manhattan Project, as one of the members of the committee responsible for making strategic decisions. He was in favor of the construction of the hydrogen bomb and intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of launching them over the Soviet Union, and actively participated in its design. The first explosion of an H-bomb occurred on an atoll in the Pacific Ocean in 1952.

Von Neumann was also affected in the postwar period by the emergence of the McCarthyist persecution, even though he was a staunch supporter of nuclear deterrence. Other scientists, such as Robert Oppenheimer, showed opposing political positions, and in the environment that initiated the Cold War they were brought before the Committee of Anti-American Activities. Von Neumann, adopting a radically different attitude to that of other scientists such as Edward Teller, dared to defend in public the innocence and loyalty of Oppenheimer.

In January 1955 von Neumann was ratified by the United States Senate as one of the five commissioners of the Atomic Energy Commission, the highest position that a scientist could aspire to in the government, which made Spring will move to Washington with his family. The following year, in 1956, he received the first Fermi medal from the hands of President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the same time as the first symptoms of the disease were manifest that would quickly end his life.

It was common at the time to underestimate the dangers of radiation, and von Neumann shared the same confidence: he stayed in Los Alamos several months a year and went personally to nuclear tests. He finally contracted a bone cancer that was diagnosed in 1955 and that the following year severely disabled him. Some top secret meetings of the Atomic Energy Commission had to be held in the room of the Walter Reed military hospital where he had been interned. Although of Jewish origin, von Neumann had never been a believer and surprised his relatives by asking for the consolation of a Catholic priest, Father Strittmater. John von Neumann died on February 8, 1957.

More Facts about John Von Neumann

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