inventor: János Neumann Margittai (later known as von Neumann), mathematician
time of inventon: 1952

About the inventor

János Neumann Margittai

János Neumann was born in Budapest. After getting ennobled in 1913, his father acquired the hereditary appellation Margittai, as his second last name. He was known abroad as John von Neumann. He was considered an infant prodigy already before the age of 10. His memory was almost photographic, and Neumann also demonstrated extraordinary results in mental arithmetic. Rumours and legends were about Neumann himself checking the final results of the calculations of early computers by mental arithmetic and with the same speed.

He attended the Eötvös Lóránd University, Faculty of Mathematics. During his academic years he spent a lot of time in Berlin where – among others – he attended Albert Einstein’s classes. At the same time, he earned his diploma in chemical engineering from the ETH Zurich in Switzerland, and later a doctorate in mathematics in Budapest. In the beginning of his scientific career he thoroughly studied quantum theory and the basics of mathematics. In addition, he strongly contributed to the exact foundation of set theory, and also founded the field of game theory. Supposedly, the thorough examination of game theory applied to the situation during the Korean War led to the USA not attacking China.

From 1931 he became professor at Princetown University and later at the Institute for Advanced Studies – where the most brilliant scientists of the world were brought together. He took part in the theoretical studies in connection with the creation of the first nuclear bomb. Nevertheless, the mathematical correlations discovered during the study of shock waves could not be solved by classic methods. That was the point when Neumann’s interest turned to the possibility of high speed electronic calculations.

In 1955 he was appointed as one of the 5 commissioners of the United States Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). In 1956 he received the Medal of Freedom from President Eisenhower for launching the IT revolution of the second half of the 20th century. Beside streets and an award, a Moon crater and a minor planet also preserve his name.



Neumann earned outstanding merits in the field of logical design of computers. The fundamentals of these are referred to as Neumann principles of computer architecture. He also consulted on the EDVAC project – the first computer storing also the program in its memory – that was put in operation in 1952. Today’s computers are also made in accordance with Neumann’s principles.