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The Man from the Future: The Visionary Life of John von Neumann

The Man from the Future: The Visionary Life of John von Neumann

Ananyo Bhattacharya


Not so much a biography of the man (although there's plenty of that), but of his work and the major activities going on in maths and computing to which he contributed.

It's almost impossible to comprehend how influential Von Neumann was to mid-twentieth-century science. He seemed to be able to see where the next set of major problems were going to appear, and then lay the groundwork for them – only to have shifted on to some new problem by the time others caught up. He was "first" into game theory and cellular automata, and early (though definitely not first) into computing. He made enormous mathematical contributions to the Manhattan Project. He also seems to have been quite at home at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, which many others have described very negatively in terms of the new work accomplished there. Perhaps that was a feature of being an exile: he had to be self-contained and able to take his work anywhere with him.

4/5. Finished 16 October 2022.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

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