Kurt Gödel (1906 – 1978)


Gödel and Austrian logician, mathematician, and philosopher impacted scientific and philosophical thinking in the 20th century. His two incompleteness theorems were published when he was only 25.

Gödels work had ramifications of the fact that Gödel’s incompleteness theorem can be applied to any Turing-complete computational system, which may include the human brain.

Gödel died in 1978, and left behind a tantalizing theory based on principles of modal logic — that a higher being must exist. In essence he argued that, by definition, God is that for which no greater can be conceived. And while God exists in the understanding of the concept, we could conceive of him as greater if he existed in reality. Therefore, he must exist. While such headlines are great for media they hardly convince atheists nor console a religious person.

Fun facts:

  • Gödel developed an obsessive fear of being poisoned, so he would only eat food that his wife Adele made! Unfortunately for Gödel, in 1977 Adele was hospitalized for a six month period. Naturally, Gödel refused to eat and eventually starved to death. (fact yes, but not so much fun)
  • Gödel’s friends, including Einstein, urged him to become a US citizen. Gödel, who excelled at logic and finding inconsistency took the matter of citizenship very seriously and closely studied the US consititution to prepare for the exam. After a thorough analysis he believed he had found a inconsistency.  On the eve of the hearing, he called Morgenstern, one of the founders of game theory, in an agitated state, saying he had found an ‘inconsistency’ in the Constitution, one that could allow a dictatorship to arise! Morgenstern was amused, but he realized that Gödel was serious and urged him not to mention it to the judge, fearing that it would jeopardize Godels citizenship bid. On the short drive to Trenton the next day, with Morgenstern serving as chauffeur, Einstein tried to distract Godel with jokes. When they arrived at the courthouse, the judge was impressed by Gödels eminent witnesses, and he invited the trio into his chambers. After some small talk, he said to Gödel, ‘Up to now you have held German citizenship’. No, Gödel corrected, Austrian. ‘In any case, it was under an evil dictatorship,’ the judge continued. ‘Fortunately thats not possible in America’. ‘On the contrary, I can prove it is possible!’ Gödel exclaimed, and he began describing the constitutional loophole he had descried. But the judge told the examinee that ‘he needn’t go into that,’ and Einstein and Morgenstern succeeded in quieting him down. Gödel became a U.S. citizen in 1948.
  • Gödel developed rheumatic fevers as a child and started reading medical books with the age of 8 to learn more about the condition. He concluded that he had a weak heart.

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