Memoir

John von Neumann

Institute for Advanced Study

December 28, 0003 - February 8, 0057


Election Year: 1937
Membership Type: Member

When John von Neumann was elected a member of the Academy in 1937, he was known for his contributions to the fields of mathematical logic and the foundations of quantum mechanics. But his interests were wide-ranging, and he went on to do distinguished work in other fields, including economics and strategic thinking. He is perhaps best known for his work in the early development of computers. As director of the Electronic Computer Project at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study (1945-1955), he developed MANIAC (mathematical analyzer, numerical integrator, and computer), which at the time was the fastest computer of its kind. Built at a time long before the invention of the silicon chip, MANIAC was run on thousands of vacuum tubes.

Von Neumann was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1903, and studied in Berlin, Zurich, and Hamburg. In 1930 he joined the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study. He became a U.S. citizen in 1937, and during the Second World War distinguished himself with his work in weapons development. In 1955 he was named a Commissioner of the Atomic Energy Commission, a position he held up to his death from cancer in 1957.

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