John Von Neumann

John von Neumann (1903-1957) was one of the great mathematical geniuses of all times, right up there with Hilbert, Gauss, Euler, IsaacNewton, ArchimedesOfSyracuse, etc. He made fundamental contributions to the mathematics of quantum mechanics, to game theory, to algebra, to the foundations of mathematics, and to computer science. And there's probably more. His mathematical articles take up multiple volumes.

The poor man got his life's contribution linked to a bottleneck (the VonNeumannBottleneck), at least among computer scientists. Even worse than the mathematician Karnaugh, who became immortal with undergraduate circuit designers for a little logic optimizing trick he invented called the KarnaughMap?. Fortunately, his achievements in mathematics are widely recognized by mathematicians.

Even worse - if you studied physics, you got him confused with Carnot Cycle.

I feel strangely compelled to point out that Maurice Karnaugh is a professor at my alma mater, Polytechnic University (a.k.a. Polytechnic Institute of NewYork (a.k.a. Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn)). -- MikeSmith

Along with AlanTuring, NorbertWiener and StanislawUlam?, he helped lay the foundation for the study of ComplexSystems well before there were useful computers - and therefore before anybody but the true geniuses could think about them. Among other things, JohnVonNeumann designed an abstract SelfReproducingSystem (as a vast sort of CellularAutomaton) to prove that machines could reproduce themselves, one of the criteria philosophers of the time were counting on to differentiate machines from organisms.


Quotes from John von Neumann:

"Basic research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing."

"Anyone who considers arithmetical methods of producing random digits is, of course, in a state of sin."


Maybe it's just me, but I would have expected a reference to the invention of the "stored program computer" here. -- LarsAronsson

But stored programs were around in the 1880s with looms. Same for punch-cards; it was their rom.


A biography can be found at http://ei.cs.vt.edu/~history/VonNeumann.html.


See also: VonNeumannArchitecture
CategoryScientist

EditText of this page (last edited August 27, 2006) or FindPage with title or text search