Budapest (MTI) – John von Neumann was born on 28 December 1903. He was just six years old when he was able to divide two, six-digit numbers in his head, and he conversed with his father in Ancient Greek. He published his first study at the age of eighteen. In Zurich, he obtained his chemical engineer degree while he was studying Mathematics in Budapest and Berlin, and  received his PhD degree with his dissertation on set theory. After that, he researched operation theory and quantum physics in Göttingen, then he described the notion of pure quantum state.

In 1930, he was invited to teach at Princeton. He made his mark on every field of Mathematics. He was the one who described the Ergodic theory. In the late 30s, while researching bounded operators (also called Von Neumann algebra), he created the continuous geometry. He laid the mathematic foundations for Heisenberg’s matrix mechanics theory and Schrödinger’s wave mechanics theory, MTI reported.


Since 1940, his attention turned to applied researches. He introduced numerical meteorology. He was an advisor for the American army. He analysed the explosion wave sound and the firing tables in the nuclear weapon development programme.

His work of game theory is significant. He published his first study in relation to game theory in 1928, but he only summed up his researches in 1944 in a book which he wrote together with Oskar Morgenstern, titled The Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour, which is considered as a standard work today. By analysing the decision making and cooperation opportunities of two players, Neumann and Morgenstern proved that an optimal strategy for both parties does exist. This principle is used in economy, social and military science, pedagogy, and so on.


In 1944, he met Hermann Goldstine mathematician, who was working at a rifle range and counting firing tables. Once he mentioned to Neumann that the American army had been working on the development of an electronic general-purpose computer, the ENIAC. It raised Neumann’s interests, and one year later, he had become the director of the programme.

In 1952, Neumann and Goldstine created their first computer, which’s structural base was the same as that of the modern computers we are using today. It consisted of an arithmetic logic unit, a memory unit, a control unit and an input and output unit. They were the first to modify a program using another program. The use of binary numbers, the system of memories and instructions also originate from him. This is how today’s computers work, they just got smaller.


At the end of 1955, his health was rapidly sinking. Until his last breath, he was working on his book, discovering the parallels between the operation of the brain and the computer. The manuscript was left unfinished. The biggest mathematician of the previous century died on 8 February 1957 in Washington. His name is worn by John von Neumann Computer Society, schools, streets, and even a crater on Moon was named after the most outstanding Hungarian scientist ever lived, MTI told.


Copy editor: bm


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