John von Neumann (1903 – 1957)


von Neumann was a mathematician and polymath who made contributions to mathematcis, physics, quantum-mechanics, game-theory and nearly every aspect of computing, publishing around 150 papers throughout his career.

Neuman was also instrumental in developing the nuclear bombs which then rained down on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For which he felt no remorse. When Robert Oppenheimer after the war remarked that the physicists involved in the Manhattan project had “known sin”. Von Neumann’s response was that “sometimes someone confesses a sin in order to take credit for it.”

Within computer-science he contributed to the Monte-Carlo Method, Random Number Genration and consulted for the ENIAC and EDIVAC projects. Also the von Neumann architecture, which became famous as a result of von Neumann’s paper, was based on the work of J. Presper Eckert and John William Mauchly, inventors of the ENIAC at the University of Pennsylvania.

Fun facts:

  • Von Neumann’s design for a self-reproducing computer program is considered the world’s first computer virus, and he is considered to be the theoretical father of computer virology.
  • He was highly eccentric and according to his close friend Cuthbert Hurd always wore the same suit.
  • He liked to run up the stairs 2 at the time, and he was very awkward at it.
  • When he drove a car and the conversation lagged he would sing. The tune was indistinguishable, so he would sway from side to side and the car wouldn’t go straight.
  • He had to have hard rolls for breakfast. and got terribly upset in an Amsterdam Hotel once having breakfast, when they brought him some kind of dutch bread.
  • He was known to drive very fast. When consulting for IBM he handed over any speeding tickets to Hurd who pulled strings at IBM and handed the ticket to the downtown manager in New York, where the Police court was, and he would go around the police station and pay the fine.

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