Neumann, János (John von)
(Budapest, December 28th, 1903 – Washington, February 8th, 1957)
Brilliant mathematician, synthesizer, and promoter of the stored program concept, whose logical design of the IAS became the prototype of most of its successors - the von Neumann Architecture.
In 1913 his father, Max Neumann purchased a title and his son used the German form von Neumann where the "von" indicated the title, however, He was called Jancsi as a child, a diminutive form of János and then later he was called Johnny in the United States.
Von Neumann was a child prodigy, born into a banking family is Budapest, Hungary. As a child he had an excellent memory. When only six years old he could divide eight-digit numbers in his head.
In 1911 von Neumann entered the 'Fasori' Lutheran Gymnasium. The school had a strong academic tradition and his teachers quickly recognised von Neumann's talent and special tuition in mathematics was put on for him under the tutelage of M. Fekete the assistant at the University of Budapest , with whom he published his first paper at the age of 18. The school had another outstanding mathematician one year ahead of von Neumann, namely Jenő Wigner.
In 1921 von Neumann completed his education at the Lutheran Gymnasium. However his father did not want his son to take up mathematics, a subject that would not bring him wealth. Max Neumann asked Tódor Karman to convince his son and in the end they agreed on the compromise subject of chemistry.
Entering the University of Science (Budapest) in 1921 moving his base of studies to both Berlin and Zurich: at Berlin University and at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule of Zurich, and obtained his diploma in chemical engineering in 1926. At the same time, he also graduated from Budapest University of Science; here, he studied mathematics, physics and chemistry. He returned to his first love of mathematics. He took his doctorate examination of mathematics (with minors in experimental physics and chemistry) before Lipót Fejér and obtained his doctorate degree in 1926 with a thesis on set theory.
Neumann quickly gained a reputation in set theory, algebra, and quantum mechanics. He obtained a scholarship and went to Göttingen where he worked with David Hilbert. He qualified as a lecturer at Berlin University in 1927. At a time of political unrest in Europe, he was invited as a guest professor at Princeton University, in 1930, for one year, and when the Institute for Advanced Studies was established there in 1933, he was appointed to be one of the original six Professors of Mathematics, a position which he retained for the remainder of his life.
The mathematician Ulam wrote von Neumann's work in this period:
"In his youthful work, he was concerned not only with mathematical logic and the axiomatics of set theory, but, simultaneously, with the substance of set theory itself, obtaining interesting results in measure theory and the theory of real variables. It was in this period also that he began his classical work on quantum theory, the mathematical foundation of the theory of measurement in quantum theory and the new statistical mechanics."
(Ulam, S. : John von Neumann, 1903-1957, Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 64 (1958), 1-49.)
John von Neumann has played an rather role in post-war economic theory through two essential works: his 1937 paper on a multi-sectoral growth model and his 1944 book (with Oskar Morgenstern) on game theory and uncertainty. In the famous 1937 paper he wrote on general equilibrium, capital and growth theory and introduced several important concepts of resurrecting "mathematical economics". His 1944 book with Oskar Morgenstern, Theory of Games and Economic Behavior was a landmark of twentieth century social science. They invented the entire field of game theory. Neumann began doing this resarch with a 1928 article, and this book introduced several other important elements used in other fields of economics, such as the axiomatization of utility theory, that of of choice under uncertainty become later main resarch field of János Harsányi.
During World War II, Neumann also worked at Los Alamos from 1943 onwards. In 1944 and 1945, he participated in the work aimed at building computers at the Moore School of Engineering University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. His results relating to the logical design and architecture of computers are considered to be fundamental.
Two computers was built with Neumann's contribution: ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer) and EDVAC (Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer). He continued his work at Princeton and the computer developed here was called IAC (Integer Automatic Computer). In 1951, Neumann also acted as an adviser for IBM, which, based on Neumann's proposal, altered the development and production of scientific computers.
Besides the research and development of computers he was the founder of the theory of cell-automata. His work performed in the field of hydrodynamics contributed to the knowledge of the character of shock waves, played an decisive part in the development of the explosive chain-reaction (nuclear bomb).
In his last, uncompleted work The Computer and the Brain he has compared the operation and structure of the two information processor systems.
He was an adviser of the Weapons Systems Evaluation group from 1950, a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the US Air Force from 1951 and, in addition, an adviser on a number of other important military boards. The highest position occupied by him was membership in the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) from 1955.
Bibliography:
URL: http://www.info.omikk.bme.hu/Archivum/neumann/htm/neumannbiblio.htm
Memberships: a number of universities awarded him the title of honorary doctor and many national academies of science elected him as a member for his activities.
Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Member, Academiz Nacional de Ciencias Exactas, Lima, Peru; Member, Acamedia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rome, Italy; Member, National Academy of Sciences; Member, Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences and Letters, Amsterdam, Netherlands;
Honours: Eötvös prize, awarded during his school days; D.Sc. (Hon), Princeton University, Presidential Medal for Merit (1947), US Navy Distinguished Civilian Service Award (1948); D.Sc. (Hon), University of Pennsylvania, 1950; D.Sc. (Hon), Harvard University, 1950; D.Sc. (Hon), University of Istanbul, 1952; D.Sc. (Hon), Case Institute of Technology, 1952; D.Sc. (Hon), University of Maryland, 1952; D.Sc. (Hon), Institute of Polytechnics, Munich, 1953; Medal of Freedom (Presidential Award 1956), 1956; Albert Einstein Commemorative Award, 1956; Medal of Freedom , Fermi Gold Medal, Fermi Award, Einstein Award. Enrico Fermi Award, 1956;
References:
- Aspray, W.: John von Neumann and the origins of modern computing. (Cambridge, M., 1990).
- Heims,S. J.: John von Neumann and Norbert Wiener: From mathematics to the technologies of life and death. (Cambridge, MA, 1980).
- Legendi,T., and Szentiványi, T. (eds.): Leben und Werk von John von Neumann. (Mannheim, 1983).
- Macrae, N.: John von Neumann. (New York, 1992).
- Poundstone, W.: Prisoner's dilemma. (Oxford, 1993).
- Vonneuman, N. A. : John von Neumann: as seen by his brother. (Meadowbrook, PA, 1987).
- John von Neumann. URL: http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Von_Neumann.html
Margittai coat-of-arms
Fasori Lutheran Gymnasium (Grammar School)
The Lutheran Grammar School in Budapest was one of best grammar schools, even in the world. Several famous persons of the 20th century attended this school, such as Antal Doráti, John von Neumann and Nobel Prize winner Eugene Wigner.
Mathematics was taught by excellent mathematicians, e.g. László Rátz and József Kürschák. In this school physics was taught by Sándor Mikola, academician, for 38 years, and János Renner, who successfully carried on with Eötvös measurements and Miklós Vermes, who had a significant role in physics teaching till the 1980s.
The prominent physicists and mathematicians, born in Hungary, learnt in the 'Fasori' but achieved their results abroad, have remembered their school years, the students journal and student competition contributing to their career.
László Rátz
In his acceptance speech for his Nobel Prize, dr. Wigner said:
"there were many superb teachers at the Lutheran gymnasium. But the greatest was my mathematics teacher László Rátz. Rátz was known not only throughout our gymnasium but also by the church and government hierarchy and among many of the teachers in the country schools. I still keep a photograph of Rátz in my workroom because he had every quality of a miraculous teacher: He loved teaching. He knew the subject and how to kindle interest in it. He imparted the very deepest understanding. Many gymnasium teachers had great skill, but no one could evoke the beauty of the subject like Rátz. Rátz cared deeply about mathematics as a discipline.
...
He took special care to find his better students and to inspire them. Rátz felt so privileged to tutor a phenomenon like Neumann Jancsi that he refused any money for it.
...
Who could know that this precocious 10-year-old would someday become a great mathematician? Somehow Rátz knew. And he discovered it very quickly. Rátz was just as nice to me and nearly as devoted as he was to Neumann. Rátz was the only gymnasium teacher to invite me into his home. There were no private lessons. But Rátz lent me many well-chosen books, which I read thoroughly and made sure to return in good condition. "
Göttingen University (at the beginning of 19th century)
David Hilbert (1862-1943)
Set theory
From the dawn of the 20th century, the mathematics faced a fundamental crisis: logicians Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead had found that self-reference gave rise to major paradoxes in theory. Mathematical community was afraid that if contradictions truly had been discovered in the theory of sets, then the existence of these contradictions threatened the very basis of mathematics itself. Von Neumann also participated in a program formulated and directed by David Hilbert, to formalize mathematics and set it on an axiomatical and sound basis. The program made significant research in clarifying the axiomatic bases of several branches of mathematics, but in 1931was abruptly halted by Kurt Gödel's article which proved that "no formal system powerful enough to formulate arithmetic could be both complete and consistent,", i.e. that complete axiomatization had inherent limits.
Quantum mechanics
In the late 1920s, von Neumann was inspired by Werner Heisenberg, one of the founder of quantum mechanics. Heisenberg presented lectures in Göttingen about his uncertainty principle, which states that it is impossible to measure precisely in a given moment both the position and the momentum of an elementary particle. Von Neumann began work in quantum theory and in his Mathematische Grundlagen der Quantenmechanik (1932), ( "The mathematical fundamentals of quantum mechanics") built a solid axiomatic framework for the quantum mechanics.
He also discussed the question of indeterminism and the 'hidden parameters' in quantum theory. Until then, some theorist guessed the uncertainity may be eliminated and determinism restored by the so-called hidden parameters. Von Neumann concluded that the indeterminism was inherent in quantum theory because of the interaction of the observer and the observed.
game theory
Game theory has emerged in the last decades as a powerful challenger to the conventional method of examining economics. Although many predecessors worked on problems what can be called "game theory", the fundamental, formal conception of game theory was first developed by John Von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern's classical book, the Theory of Games and Economic Behavior in 1944.
A game in that relation - consists of a set of rules governing a competitive situation in which two or more players select strategies designed to maximize their own winnings or to minimize their opponent's ones. The rules specify the possible actions for each player, the amount of information received by each as play progresses, and the amounts won or lost in various situations.
The authors introduced such concepts as the strategic normal game, strategic extensive game, the concept of pure/mixed strategies, coalitional games as well as the axiomatization of expected utility theory which became applicable to many fields, including military problems and for economics under uncertainty, and applied statistical logic to the choice of strategies.
Von Neumann and Morgenstern focused to zero-sum games, that is, to games in which no player can gain except at another's expense.
The Neumann architecture
"First: Since the device is primarily a computer, it will have to perform the elementary operations of arithmetics most frequently. These are addition, subtraction, multiplication and division:
+, ?, ×, ÷. It is therefore reasonable that it should contain specialized organs for just these operations. At any rate a central arithmetical part of the device will probably have to exist, and this constitutes the first specific part: CA.
Second: The logical control of the device, that is the proper sequencing of its operations can be most efficiently carried out by a central control organ. If the device is to be elastic, that is as nearly as possible all purpose, then a distinction must be made between the specific instructions given for and defining a particular problem, and the general control organs which see to it that these instructions - no matter what they are - are carried out. The former must be stored in some way -
in existing devices ...the latter are represented by definite operating parts of the device. By the central control we mean this latter function only, and the organs which perform it form the second specific part: CC.
Third: Any device which is to carry out long and complicated sequences of operations (specifically of calculations) must have a considerable memory.
While it appeared that various parts of this memory have to perform functions which differ somewhat in their nature and considerably in their purpose, it is nevertheless tempting to treat the entire memory as one organ, and to have its parts even as interchangeable as possible for the various functions enumerated above. The total memory constitutes the third specific part of the device: M.
The three specific parts CA, CC (together C) and M correspond to the associative neurons in the human nervous system. It remains to discuss the equivalents of the sensory or afferent and the motor or efferent neurons. These are the input and the output organs of the device .
In other words: All transfers of numerical (or other) information between the parts C and M of the device must be effected by the mechanisms contained in these parts. There remains, however, the necessity of getting the original definitory information from outside into the device, and also of getting the final information, the results, from the device into the outside.
The device must be endowed with the ability to maintain the input and output (sensory and motor) contact with some specific medium of this type: That medium will be called the outside recording medium of the device: R. Now we have:
Fourth: The device must have organs to transfer (numerical or other) information from R into its specific parts, C and M. These organs form its input, the fourth specific part: I. It will be seen
that it is best to make all transfers from R (by I) into M, and never directly into C.
Fifth: The device must have organs to transfer (presumably only numerical information) from its specific parts C and M into R. These organs form its output, the fifth specific part: O. It will be seen that it is again best to make all transfers from M (by O) into R, and never directly from C.
The output information, which goes into R, represents, of course, the final results of the operation of the device on the problem under consideration. These must be distinguished from the intermediate results, which remain inside M."
(Edited from the "First draft...")
Neuman and President Eisenhover
John von Neumann at the computer