Site is under maintenance mode. Please wait few min!

John Von Neumann

John Von Neumann Photo

John Louis von Neumann was born on 28th December 1903 into an affluent Jewish family from Budapest, Austro-Hungarian Empire, as János Lajos von Neumann. Familiar with calculus and Ancient Greek by the time he was eight, earned him the reputation of a child-prodigy.  He earned his Ph.D. in mathematics at the age of 22 from Pázmány Péter University, Budapest and a diploma in chemical engineering from the ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Between 1926 and 1930, he served as the youngest professor in the history of Privatdozent at the University of Berlin.

John von Neumann migrated to the United States in 1930, where he joined Princeton University, and, subsequently, was one of the founding members of the Institute for Advanced Study. From there on till his death he served at Princeton as a professor of mathematics. Neumann’s innate ability to immediately perform complex operations in his head stunned other mathematicians, and his photographic memory allowed him to recall information without hesitation. In 1943 Neumann joined the Manhattan Project to work on the massive calculations needed to make the atomic bomb. It was here that Neumann made his most important contribution to science by developing the concept and design of explosive lenses used in the implosion bombs. Due to this, he was also part of the Target Selection Committee which selected Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the first cities to be the targets of the atomic bomb. It was Neumann who helped calculate the expected size of the blast, its aftermath and the distance from ground detonation for maximum effect. Post Manhattan Project, Neumann collaborated with Edward Teller and Klaus Fuchs to counter the harmful effects of the hydrogen bomb.

But what really gave Neumann a special place in the history of mankind was his contributions towards computer science. His gifted abilities in applied mathematics eventually diverted him towards quantum theory, automata theory, economics, and even defense planning. Neumann is considered to be the father of game theory, which in later years would influence a wide range of calculation based fields.

Modern computing has much to be thankful for to Neumann.  He took the lead in this field by explaining computer architecture and how data and programs are both stored in the same address space in the computer memory.  Neumann also played a pivotal role in the development of Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), the world’s first general-purpose computer. This prototype computer not only helped study the viability of the use of hydrogen bomb but also gave the world’s first numerical weather forecasts.

Neumann is also known for creating the field of cellular automata without the help of computers, thus constructing the world’s first self-replicating automata with the help of pencil and paper. Thanks to Neumann’s Theory of Self Reproducing Automata, the first universal constructor was conceived. Neumann proved that the most efficient way of performing colossal mining operations would be by using self-replicating machines.

The renowned scientist Donald Knuth considered Neumann as the father of merge sort algorithm. Neumann made a considerable contribution to the study of algorithms. He demonstrated that the first and second halves of an array are each arranged periodically and then merged together. His algorithm for replicating fair coins with the biased coin is applied during the software whitening stage of hardware random number generators.

In 1956 Neumann received the Enrico Fermi Award. This is the same year in which Neumann’s book The Computer and the Brain was posthumously published. Speculative in nature, yet the book touches upon several important differences between brains and computers of his day. On 15th Feburary 1956, Neumann received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Dwight Eisenhower.

John von Neumann died on 8th February 1957 in Washington, D.C.

Write About John Von Neumann