John von Neumann was a Hungarian-American mathematician, born on December 28, 1903 in Budapest, Hungary, and passed away on February 8, 1957 in Washington, D.C., USA. Von Neumann was a talented child and by his mid-twenties had become one of the world’s leading mathematicians. His important work in set theory marked the beginning of a career that touched upon many of the fundamental branches of mathematics.
Von Neumann’s aptitude for applied mathematics led him to work on projects that influenced quantum theory, automata theory, economics, and defense planning. He was one of the pioneers of game theory and, along with Alan Turing and Claude Shannon, conceptualised the stored-program digital computer. If you want to learn more about John von Neumann, you can read this article on Zatrun.com.
Who is John von Neumann?
John von Neumann grew up in an affluent Jewish family in Hungary. He showed signs of exceptional intelligence from an early age, including the ability to joke in ancient Greek and quickly memorise complex sets of numbers. Von Neumann learned languages and math from private tutors and attended the Lutheran Gymnasium, Budapest’s most prestigious secondary school.
Upon completion of his secondary education in 1921, von Neumann’s father discouraged him from pursuing a career in math, fearing that there was not enough money in the field. As a compromise, von Neumann studied chemistry and mathematics at the same time. He earned a degree in chemical engineering (1925) from the Swiss Federal Institute in Zurich, followed by a doctorate in mathematics (1926) from the University of Budapest just a year later.
Neumann and His Academic Career
After completing his doctorate at Budapest University, John von Neumann went to the United States. He began working as an academic at Princeton University in 1930 and was part of the original faculty of the Institute for Advanced Study from 1933. He solved one of David Hilbert’s 23 theoretical problems and worked on developing an “algebraic ring” with applications in quantum physics.
During World War II, Neumann contributed to the development of the atomic bomb. After the war, he made major contributions to the development of high-speed computers. One of his computers played a significant role in the creation of the hydrogen bomb. Additionally, he co-authored the book “Theory of Games and Economic Behavior” (1944), which was instrumental in establishing game theory.