Life History

John Von Neumann Biography | John Von Neumann Life History & Facts

John Von Neumann: John Von Neumann was one of the preeminent scientists, along with being a great mathematician and physicist.

John Von Neumann Life History & Facts

John Von Neumann: John Von Neumann was one of the preeminent scientists, along with being a great mathematician and physicist. He was an early pioneer in fields such as game theory, nuclear deterrence, and modern computing. He made contributions to quantum physics, functional analysis, set theory, economics, computer science, topology, hydrodynamics, etc. Von Neumann’s intellect was dizzying.

He was born on December 28, 1903, as Neumann Janos Lajos (Hungarian names have the family name first) in Budapest, Hungary to Neumann Miksa, a lawyer who worked in a bank, and Kann Margit. John was an extraordinary prodigy. At the age of six, he could divide two 8-digit numbers in his head and converse with his father in ancient Greek.

John Von was already very interested in maths, the nature of numbers and the logic of the the world around him. By eight, he had mastered calculus and by twelve, he was at the graduate level in mathematics. In 1911, Von Neumann entered the Lutheran Gymnasium. The school had a the strong academic tradition which seemed to count for more than the religious affiliation both in Neumann’s eyes and in those of the school.

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Von Neumann completed his education at the Lutheran Gymnasium in 1921. However, his father did not want his son to take up a subject that would not bring him wealth.

Max Neumann asked Theodore von Karman to speak to his son and persuade him to follow a career in business. Finally, all agreed on the compromise the subject of chemistry for Von Neumann’s university studies.


He received his Ph.D. in mathematics (with minors in experimental physics and chemistry) from the University of Budapest at the age of 23. He published a definition of ordinal numbers when he was 20, the definition is the one used today.Von Neumann received his diploma in chemical engineering from the Technische Hochschule in Zürich in 1926.


By the age of 25, Von Neumann had published ten major papers; and by the age of 30, nearly three dozen. He became the co-editor of the Annals of Mathematics in 1933 and,two years later, he became the co-editor of Compositio Mathematica.

He held both these editorships until his death.  John Von Neumann was married twice. His first wife was Mariette Kovesi, whom he married in 1930. He agreed to convert to Catholicism to placate her family.

John Von Neumann Biography

Von Neumann and Marietta had a little girl Marina in 1936, yet their marriage finished in separation, in 1937.The next year, he wedded Klara Dan, likewise from Budapest, whom he met on one of his European visits. After marrying, they sailed to the United States and made their home in Princeton.

During and after World War II, Von Neumann served as a consultant to the armed forces. From 1940, he was an individual from the Scientific Advisory Committee at the Ballistic Research Laboratories at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Von Neumann also helped develop the first electronic computer, the ENIAC, at the University of Pennsylvania.

He received two Presidential Awards, the Medal for Merit in 1947 and the Medal for Freedom in 1956. He had also received the Albert Einstein Commemorative Award and the Enrico Fermi Award in 1956. In 1938, he was granted the Bôcher Memorial Prize for his work in analysis. Perhaps, all deaths can be considered to come too early. John Von Neumann’s own death came far too early. He died on February 8, 1957.

He was diagnosed with bone cancer or pancreatic cancer, possibly caused by exposure to radioactivity while observing A-bomb tests in the Pacific, and possibly in later work on nuclear weapons at Los Alamos, New Mexico. He died within a few months of the initial diagnosis, in excruciating pain. When he died, he was developing a theory of the structure of the human brain.

It is regularly said that cutting edge science is huge to such an extent that nobody can know in excess of a minor portion of it. Somebody once solicited Von Neumann how much from the science he himself knew. He went into one of his characteristic thinking trances. After a minute, he had an answer, “Twenty-eight percent.”

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