Wednesday, October 26, 2016

John Louis von Neumann (1903-1957)

The mathematician John von Neumann made important contributions of many areas of mathematics and quantum physics before turning to computers and developing the theoretical foundations of digital electronic computers.

Von Neumann was born to an aristocratic family on December 28, 1903 in Budapest, Austria-Hungary. He was the eldest of three sons born to Margaret von Neumann and Max von Neumann, successful banker.

At the age of 18, von Neumann had his first mathematical paper published with M.Fekete, his tutor. This paper showed how to solve a problem on the location zeroes of certain minimal polynomials.

 In 1921 von Neumann commenced study of mathematics at the University of Budapest and at the University of Berlin and in 1925 he received his degree in chemical engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in Zurich.

 In 1926 he earned his PhD in mathematics from the University of Budapest, where he wrote his dissertation on set theory. During the 1920s, while von Neumann was in Europe, he focused his works in two main areas: ‘set theory and logical foundations of mathematics’, and ‘Hilbert space theory, operator theory and the mathematical foundations of quantum mechanics’. On top of that he successfully gained a reputation of his work on set theory and quantum mechanics especially the theory of measurement.

The von Neumann minimax theorem was proved in 1928 and was major millstone in the theory of games, von Neumann continued to think about game and wrote the classic Theory of Games and Economic Behavior (written with economist Oskar Morgenstern) in 1944.

Von Neumann spent the rest of his career at Princeton University, first as a visiting professor, then as a professor of mathematics at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study from 1933 until his early death in 1957.

During World War II, the need for advanced computing technology increased within various military research programs. Von Neumann also participated n these research programs as a consultant and he got involved in aerodynamics, high explosives, atomic bombs, electronics, the development of high-speed calculating machine, etc.

von Neumann was a gregarious man with sophisticated tastes, a command of four languages, a prodigious memory, and an amazing ability to perform calculation in his head. He died February 8, 1957 in Washington, DC of brain cancer.
John Louis von Neumann (1903-1957)
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