John Von Neumann

Biography of John Von Neumann

John Von Neumann Biography

Johann von Neumann, better known as John von Neumann, was a twentieth-century Hungarian mathematician who made great contributions to quantum physics, functional analysis, mathematical set theory, communication sciences, economics, numerical analysis, cybernetics, the hydrodynamics of expressions and statistics.

Neumann was born on December 28, 1903, in Budapest. His family came from a wealthy family of bankers, even though their ancestors came from Russia without much money. His father received the title of chivalry from Joseph I of Habsburg in order to support his political purposes.

Since he was a child it was clear that John von Neumann had many aptitudes for mathematics, a prodigious memory and a great ability for languages. Thanks to the latter, his parents sought to complement the education he received at the Fasori Gimnazium Lutheran school in Budapest with language classes taught by private teachers.

Later he went to study mathematics and chemistry at the universities of Budapest and Berlin, as well as chemical engineering at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. In one of his walkings around the campus of the University of Göttingen, he would meet met the German mathematician, David Hilbert. Knowing him was of great importance because his work helped him to develop the theory of the demonstration and allowed him to improve the foundation of Zermelo’s set theory.

In 1921, the Pázmány Péter University in Budapest awarded him the doctorate in mathematics after he presented a thesis on ordinal numbers. Six years later, when he was only twenty-five years old, he became the youngest professor at the University of Berlin and Hamburg, where continued working until 1930.

In 1928, John von Neumann devoted himself to study strategy games and from this, he opened the door to the development of statistical mathematics. Also, he worked in the automation of mathematics and contributed to the development of computational logic.

Sometime later, after his father passed away, he moved to America. When he moved to the United States, he changed his name to English, so that he went from being Johann to being John; although he kept his surname. Once there, Neumann was working at Princeton University for more than 25 years and obtained one of five open positions to work at the Institute for Advanced Study, that is, the Institute for Advanced Studies.

Besides working as a teacher, he participated in the development of two of the first computers: ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer) and EDVAC (Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer). This is due to their interest in creating automation machines that would allow the automation of complex systems.

In addition, he was the tutor of the doctoral thesis of Alan Turing, who would be considered one of the fathers of computer science. And this was not the only thing, also contributed to the study of algorithms with the invention of the mergesort algorithm.

John von Neumann worked with R.D. Richtmyer in an algorithm of artificial viscosity that would allow understanding shock waves, and between 1944 and 1946 he worked for the American military-industrial complex in the development of a report that presented the opportunities represented by the development of computers. Likewise, he participated in the conception of a memory capable of storing a program with the instructions for the resolution of a problem.

He was constantly called to work for the CIA and the Army of the United States. He became the chairman of the Committee for missiles and joined the atomic energy commission. For all the above, Neumann was considered the scientist with the greatest political power in all United States of America.

He participated in the development of a good number of submarine missiles with atomic heads with which nations threatened each other during the cold war. In 1943, he was asked to participate in the manufacture of atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs, and ballistic missiles. One of his most cited findings in this field was that “large-scale bombs are more devastating than if they were detonated before touching the ground; participation in projects for the design of contact explosives.”

About his personal life, we can say that he was always known as a womanizer and married twice. With his first wife, he had a daughter who ended up becoming a professor of international trade and public policy at the University of Michigan. His second wife was a woman he met on one of his trips to Budapest.

In 1955, he became a member of the American government’s atomic energy commission. That same year he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Neumann died on February 8, 1957, surrounded by soldiers because they had him under surveillance to prevent him from revealing state secrets because of the medication.

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