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John von Neumann

John von NeumannAKA János Lajos Margittai Neumann

Born: 28-Dec-1903
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary
Died: 8-Feb-1957
Location of death: Washington, DC
Cause of death: Cancer - Prostate
Remains: Buried, Princeton Cemetery, Princeton, NJ

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Mathematician, Scientist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Computing pioneer, inventor of Game Theory

American mathematician John von Neumann is considered a founding father of game theory (the application of mathematics to economic, military, political, and social conflict) and computer design. He first proposed a mathematical technique for analysis of conflict in 1927, and developed this into Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, co-authored with Oskar Morgenstern in 1944. He was involved with planning and building the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC), the first general-purpose electronic computer, and his concept of computer design is still referred to as the von Neumann Architecture.

He also calculated the first rigorous mathematical formulation of quantum mechanics as linear operators on Hilbert spaces, and developed the merge sort algorithm, by which the two halves of an array are first sorted recursively and then merged together. His research in shock wave dynamics helped determine the optimal height of explosions in attacks on buildings, his work on the Manhattan Project was crucial to the development of the implosion trigger for the first atomic bomb, and he was a key designer of the first US intercontinental ballistic missiles.

He was born in Hungary as János Neumann, and appended the "von" to his name in his youth, when his father purchased a title of nobility. He was a high school classmate and lifelong friend of Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner. His daughter is the economist Marina v.N. Whitman.

Father: Miksa Neumann ("Max", banker, d. 1929)
Mother: Margit Kann ("Margaret")
Wife: Marietta Kovesi (m. 1930, div. 1937)
Daughter: Marina v.N. Whitman (b. 1936)
Wife: Klára Dán (m. 1938)

    High School: Fasori Lutheran Gymnasium, Budapest, Hungary (1921)
    University: University of Berlin (attended 1921-23)
    University: BS Chemical Engineering, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (1925)
    University: PhD Mathematics, University of Budapest (1926)
    Scholar: Mathematics, University of Göttingen (1926-27)
    Teacher: Mathematics, University of Berlin (1927-29)
    Teacher: Mathematics, University of Hamburg (1929-30)
    Teacher: Mathematical Physics, Princeton University (1930-33)
    Professor: Mathematics, Institute for Advanced Studies (1933-57)

    US Atomic Energy Commission 1953-57
    Accademia dei Lincei
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Mathematical Society Presient (1951-52)
    American Philosophical Society
    IEEE
    Institute for Advanced Study 1933-57
    London Mathematical Society Foreign Member
    Los Alamos National Laboratory 1943-55
    National Academy of Sciences
    Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences
    AMS Bôcher Prize 1938
    Navy Distinguished Service Medal 1947
    Enrico Fermi Award 1956
    Albert Einstein Commemorative Award 1956
    Presidential Medal of Freedom 1956
    Presidential Medal for Merit 1957
    Information Processing Hall of Fame 1985
    Manhattan Project
    Naturalized US Citizen 1937
    Converted to Catholicism 1957 (deathbed)
    Austrian Ancestry
    Hungarian Ancestry
    Jewish Ancestry
    Russian Ancestry
    Lunar Crater Von Neumann (40.4° N 153.2° E, 78 km. diameter)

Author of books:
Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics (1926, non-fiction)
The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior (1944, non-fiction, with Oskar Morgenstern)
Probabilistic Logics (1952, non-fiction)
The Computer and the Brain (1958, non-fiction)
Theory of Self-reproducing Automata (1966, non-fiction; posthumous)
The Theory and Techniques of Electronic Digital Computers (1985, non-fiction)
Papers of John von Neumann on Computing and Computer Theory (1987, non-fiction; posthumous)
John von Neumann: Selected Letters (2005, non-fiction, posthumous)


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