Who is John von Neumann?June 25, 2021
John von Neumann was a Hungarian-born American mathematician and computer scientist who lived from December 28, 1903 to February 8, 1957.
From 1921 to 1923, he studied chemistry at the University of Berlin. Two years later, he received a degree in chemical engineering from the Technical High School in Switzerland. Finally, in 1926, he received a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Budapest. As soon as he finished his studies in Budapest, the young mathematician was awarded a Rockofeller scholarship at the University of Göttingen. Here, at the age of 23, he published his first masterpiece “Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics”.
This work was very important for the understanding of “Quantum field theory” on which all atomic and nuclear physics were built. In those years, von Neumann accepted his first teaching position at the University of Berlin.
While in Berlin, John von Neumann began to study the game of poker. This game in particular intrigued him, because with this game not only the luck factor but also the player’s strategy matter came into play. Could such a game be described in mathematical terms? The young mathematician got to work! Within a few months he developed the “Theory of Games”, which brought a new field to the study of mathematics. This approach was applied not only to games of chance and strategy, but also to important fields such as economics, military strategy and sociology. “Games theory” When Von Neumann was only twenty-five In 1930, he accepted Princeton’s offer of a one-year course and decided to stay here in 1931. Here, as in Berlin, it attracted the attention of students and professors with its different teaching methods. He received a call to become a professor at the Institute for Advanced Studies, a newly opened international center for researchers at Princeton, where he immersed himself in mathematical research for several years.
In the years leading up to and throughout the Second World War, von Neumann worked for the military. It was here that he completed the “ENIAC”, the first electronic calculator for the military, by the end of the war in 1945. It is also believed that he came into contact with the radiation sickness that caused his death from cancer in 1957. He continued to pursue it as a mathematician (a mathematician of his own kind) after the war.
After long research, his wonderful machine “MANIAC” (Mathematical Analyzer, Numerical Integral and Computer) was ready for the service of people. So much so that this machine could complete a problem that previously took several years in an hour. NORC (Noval Ordinanse Research Computer) was von Neumann’s second computer. This ingenious machine could give a twenty-four-hour forecast in a few minutes, and record information about the essence of the earth. He could calculate the ebb and flow movements of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and could solve military maneuvering problems. In 1953, he was appointed chairman of the commission of scientists and military leaders investigating the feasibility of the American guided missile program. He started working on the Intercontinental Ballistic Guided Missile (ICBM) project under his leadership.
In 1954, von Neumann was appointed to the largest Atomic Energy Commission, where he continued to work on cell automata theory until he died of cancer in 1957, leaving behind theories and concepts that meet the needs of our lives today. If von Neumann’s extraordinary achievements are reviewed, it seems impossible to believe that they are the product of the human mind.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook