John von Neumann

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John von Neumann (1903-1957) was a Hungarian-born mathematician who immigrated to the United States when Hitler rose to power. He was a child prodigy who contributed a broad range of fields, include quantum mechanics, game theory and computer science. He is credited with doing early work on the modern digital computer called von Neumann architecture[1] and the application of operator theory to quantum mechanics called von Neumann algebra. He was a member of the Manhattan Project who later worked with Edward Teller and Stanislaw Ulam to develop the steps for thermonuclear reactions necessary to build the hydrogen bomb.

Religion

John von Neumann was born to a non-practicing Jewish family but still had a ritual circumcision, he later converted to Roman Catholicism; While agnostic most of his life, von Neumann surprised friends by requesting to see a Catholic priest on his deathbed.

Politics

During a Senate committee hearing he described his political ideology as "violently anti-communist, and much more militaristic than the norm".

While other physicists such as Robert Oppenheimer were criticizing the atomic bomb they helped create, von Neumann was unapologetic. Oppenheimer remarked that physicists had "known sin" by developing the first atomic bombs. Von Neumann cleverly replied that "sometimes someone confesses a sin in order to take credit for it."

References

  1. John von Neumann (ed) (1945). | First Draft of a Report on the Edvac
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