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John von Neumann

2017-08-23 | 🔗

One man and his incredible intellect affected so many different disciplines. From game theory to computers to the Manhattan Project, von Neumann and his remarkable abilities helped shape the 20th century.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Here's the thing. Saving money with Geico was almost better than playing pick up basketball because there's always there who joined your game He never passes the rock he constantly rex theories and who completely you and then put his hands up and say no foul, no foul with Geico, it's easy switch and save on car insurance. No the vacant fake, an ankle sprain because you're absolutely exhausted so which in save with Geiger it's almost better than sport, welcome to stuff you, Mr History Class from house up works TAT, come a little and welcome contacts that we firmly and Tracy be Wilson, and today we are going to delve into the life of a man who really shape the world. We live in a very tangible ways and while he's well known in mathematics and physics and even economic circles he's not
AMOS outside of academia as his contemporaries and colleagues such as G, Robert Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein, talking about the hungarian american genius, John VON Norman and from here mathematics to applied mathematics to physics to game theory. He turned his intellect to many of the projects that directly affected the course of the twentieth century, and that includes the development of the atomic bomb as well first computers, John VON Norman, was born Norman, Janusz on December twenty Eightth nineteen o three in Budapest, Austria, Hungary, he was a child prodigy. You liked Learn he retained new information across a wide range of topics. He was studying calculus by the time he was eight when he could already read classical Greek by that time, and he likes to tell jokes in classical Greek, it does not the most charming thing lake. I know I don't know many
learn at adults. They could do that, and yet here is an eight year old. I sure camp from his family was considered affluent. His mother Marguerite COM had family money which had come from a prosperous farm equipment company they sleep sort of lived in this big massive place with his Mothers family, where her siblings, in there children also lived in. It was a bit by all. Accounts are really lovely and sort of amazing way to grow up and his their Meeks, a Norman worked in banking and his parents. we encouraged his talents. They were definitely fans of education and cultivating intellect and to make a guy out of his photographic memory. They would sometimes select, for example, are paid from the phone book and he would have to look at it and then recited back from memory, and he was apparently really really good at it. and John who later in his life, would go by Johnny once he had angle sized his name was also tutored by the best of Hungary's intellects.
He attended the Lutheran gymnasium, which was considered to be the top high school in Budapest. Bear he continued to excel in math and language ass. He had of the child, But when the Hungarian Communist Party, he seized control of the government under the leadership of Bela Coon in nineteen nineteen, the Norman family left the country, but because they were quite well off their story of running from Bela Coon's regime, which only lasted for four months, was definite, easier and more comfortable than most refugees stories that you might hear they spent time in Vienna, and they also spent time at a resort on the Adriatic and when they return Budapest Africans for months rule John PIC right back up and resumed his studies
misery he wanted to become a mathematician, but his father was concerned that this would not be a very lucrative career path. He was still passionate about math, though so, instead of abandoning it, he studied chemistry at the same time to ie his father's fears, I sort of love that where is not willing to give this up, but I hear you I will also do this thing you think is more lucrative. In the meantime, as he was continuing his studies, a mathematical paper. He wrote, whilst in secondary school titled. The introduction of transferring my old models was published in nineteen twenty three today for people who study, mathematics and ordinary member is commonly defined as a number that defines or identity eyes a things position in a series that deafening is actually the work of teenage VON Norman in this paper in nineteen twenty five, he graduated from Zirks the swiss federal
the two with a chemical engineering degree in that same year has mathematical paper, the see I'm a of set theory was published, the following year. Here does Phd in mathematics as Plasma Pitcher University, and here so minor during his Phd in experimental physics and chemistry, Once again, he was just over achieving academically in ways that make most of US mortals feel very lazy get studying, math and chemistry at the same time is like that makes more. to me because there is so much of chemistry that requires some complex math whom but then adding experimental physics. Having experimental physics, chemistry and math. It's like both experimental phase the chemistry rely on math, but all three of those further to me, become a very large pile of things to study. That is a lot of disciplines and apparently one of
Favorite things was to actually look at textbooks and how they will have diagrams at the back and formula that are like you, you will need to refer to these to be able to to do some of the work. In the book he would just go back. memorize all of those things, so he could just apply them really quickly. While he was learning in all of these different disciplines, which is amazing. as opposed doc, you studied under renowned german mathematician David Hubert, who was one of the most significant influences on twentieth century mathematics, their relationship of colleagues began after one VON diamonds set theory paper was published and it got him on his birth rate are just for the sake of saying so, radar would naturally be invented for another decade yet, but I was used It is a form of expression. no there's like you now, we should point out the reader to mix it this year.
considering how many emails we get about decimate. I understand tat. I was long before VON Norman was teaching so from now he twenty seven to nineteen twenty nine. He lectured at the University of Berlin and removed from position to teaching at the University of Hamburg, where he worked until nineteen thirty and while he teaching. He was also working on a book based on the work that he had been doing with Hubert, the mathematical foundations of quantum mechanics was published in nineteen. Thirty two was book resolve some issues, Quantum mechanics that had been at odds in the work of his predecessors, Schroeder and using and manure writing became very influential as a consequence, but his writings on quantum makes were universally loved or even accepted, while some business
accepted the idea that Van Norman put forth of indeterminate sea of quantum theory with those scientists, including Heisenberg. His own work on his uncertainty principle, was related to it Albert Einstein for ample did not accept it, but the important thing is the VON Norman was making a name for himself. He was basically this point. Assume star in math circles and people of old and all the accomplishments he managed at such a young age. He wrote papers on more we'll subjects and made significant marks in a wide range of mathematical fields, and all of this, when he was still in his twenties VON Norman, is also sometimes called the Father of Game theory and the inspiration for his work in this area actually came from poker. His paper theory of parlor games was published in nineteenth
the eight and it explored mathematically the rational outcome of games through strategy. Then how chance and bluffing play into the strategy about come in there seem. Twenty nine VON Norman travelled the United States as a guest of Princeton University, school had ass, they twenty five year old mathematician to deliver a lecture on quantum theory and his was so well received that he was given the opportunity to continue teaching as a visiting lecturer, and he had that job from nineteen. Thirty, two nineteen thirty three VON Norman had just turned twenty six when he began teaching at Princeton and, unfortunately, his youth with something of a detriment, as he didn't seem too We understand that students speed and a little more time to catch up to his mathematical thinking, which was lightning quick. There were complaints that here. Race things from the blackboards almost ass, soon ass. He had written them down yet the sum like him, who had like this amazing flash memory and could see a thing maybe like yet by it
formula and can apply to various things. Like students were like we hold up. Now. It is a great for you, incidentally, human, actually later say this time that he felt like it was when his men article ability started to drop off. He said late, his life, that his mind, was not a sharp enabled to advance calculations in his head, starting when he was twenty six, but that his experience in the more developed understanding of mathematics that he had achieved by that point and have helped to make up the gap. Coming up. We're going to talk about big changes in Bonn. Norman's life, but before we do your pause for a little sponsor break this episode of stuff, you missed in history classes brought to you by Norton three sixty with lifelong, what they are shopping online with your smartphone. Its super feels like ear. Personal information is just right there in your hand, but that's not always the case, because, as soon as you hit submit your
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off the nineteen funny the same year that Princeton visiting lecturer job began Fun Norman got married to a man named Mariette Cosy. He started teaching at the institute, for advanced study in nineteen thirty, three, the institute which was founded in nineteen thirty, had and the writing of its founding director Abraham Flex, nor the following mission quote: the institute should be small and plastic that is flexible. It should be a haven where scholars and interests could regard the world and its phenomena as their laboratory without being carry often the maelstrom of the immediate and should be simple, comfortable,
without being monastic or remote. It should be afraid of no issue, yet it should be under no pressure from any side which might tends to force at scholars to be prejudiced either for or against any particular solution of the problem. under study, and it should provide the facilities, the tranquillity and the time requisite to fundamental inquiry into the unknown scar Sid, enjoy complete intellectual liberty and be absolutely free from administrative responsibilities or concerns. I think that probably some vague nirvana to most people in higher education sounds of one and when the institute's started its school of mathematics in nineteen, thirty, two, it hired Albert Einstein and mathematical, topology, innovator, Oswald, Dublin and then incidentally, had been the person who had invite run Norman to speak on quantum theory at Princeton Sullivan
Women joining this mathematics faculty in nineteen. Thirty three really shows how highly he was regarded. We should clear that while these people carry the title of faculty and technically work that what was called a school they weren't teaching the institute was and is applied where great minds are hired to think and explore ideas without the trappings of typical academia, e others. Basically, what that flax mirror bit the Tracy Red was about just sitting there, Sheikh there's! No, you don't worry about publisher, perish you don't have to worry about. Like students evaluating you just come here Think, and we will publish you, know your findings and we will edges. The world that way and, of course,. this time the VON Norman was spending in the United States. There was massive political shifts and upheaval happening back home so when Hitler named Chancellor of Germany the same year that VON Norman took his job at the Institute for Advance study. The mathematician gave up his teaching
she's in Berlin. Officially, they sort have been still his but on hold. While he visited the U S, he spoke openly that he felt that the Nazi regime was setting science in Germany back by a significant, margin in nineteen thirty, five John and his wife Mariette had a daughter, Marina, but the family didn't stay together long. The couple divorced two years later, and they were on good terms there when it was an amicable end, Mariette fallen in love with a physicist and Van Norman, soon started. Seeing a childhood sweetheart named Clara Dan where I was married when she and John reconnected but divorced her husband and she and Vine Norman were married and nineteen thirty eight. Yes, I just clarity that will happen in a very short period of time: lake between nineteen, thirty, seven and nineteen thirty eight there had ended and they were both remarried, but they
they really were quite amicable. They work together on various things going forward throughout their lives they shared custody of their daughter and by her accounts you know she really had both parents very involved in her life, but in the midst of all of this house shifting run. Women became unnaturalized. U S, citizen in nineteen, thirty, seven at the age of thirty three any Continued rating papers and introducing ideas into the mathematics community is there of rings of operators eventually came to be known as VON Norman Algebra is, and he began work in the lattice think reaches an extension of the study of bullion algebra. And he made the move from pure mathematics to applied mathematics and nineteen. Forty Van Norman, I was made a member of the: U S scientific Advisory committee, and in that capacity he worked at the Maryland Aberdeen improving ground, ballistic research laboratories. He also.
On the Navy Bureau of Ordnance starting in nineteen forty one, and he remained in that position until the mid nineties fifties. Yes, so all of his ability to do this lake incredibly complex calculations, literally in his head very very quickly, really became important to these different agencies that were developing things like weapons because he could say like now the trajectory Bulgaria. as the explosion we'll go like this and he was incredibly accurate on September twentieth of night forty three VON Norman joined the Manhattan project in LOS Alamos New Mexico. So is a very brief glossy version. The Manhattan project was, of course, the research and development efforts of the United States in cooperation with the United Kingdom to produce. The first item weapons. He had been invited onto the team by J Robert Oppenheimer. His mathematical skills were critical to the calculations, but went in
designing and building the first atomic bomb VON Norman, along with Other hungarian intellectuals on the project which were theatre by Carmen LEO Xilai, Eugene, p vigour and Edward Teller, came to be known by the nickname, the fins- and there are a number of apocryphal stories about how that that nickname came about, but the kind all boils down to the same idea, which is that these five men all from Hungary, were to brilliant digits, be mere humans and they be martians disguising themselves as Hungarians to walk among US There are sort of variations on this, the specifics of that, but that's kind of the joke, but of them who were transplants from a Europe that had been severely changed by the rise of Hitler. Really were willing to do this because they wanted to help in the war effort four via Norman. This was not an out of the blue transition from academia, the war effort
by Norman, had already been assisting. The british applying has acquired knowledge of non linear physics to analyze shockwaves and hydrant dynamics and, ultimately, to help develop chemical explosives. With that knowledge, and once he arrived at LOS Alamos of annoying and was instrumental in determining that implosion design for this particular weapon was a better option rather than clear bomb. There would have what was called a gun tape design. He was a primary earlier in the design of the explosive lenses that were used in implosion. Tight Bob designs, these so called lenses, were actually a combination of chemical, some of which burned more quickly than others than that was designed to control the blast and to achieve symmetrical explosion and run Norman really work through most of the atomic bombs, most important developments stages, and he was one of the people press.
at the trinity site when the first atomic bomb was tested by Norman also one of the people who decided where the first bombs would be dropped. He became part of the target selection committee on in April of nineteen forty five. As targets were assessed. It was his work and mathematics that calculated data relating to projecting deaths, the blast, size and detonation locations to maximize the impact. While at one point the can We considered dropping a bomb on the Imperial Palace and Tokyo Van men was one of the voices who argued against it and next up we are gonna, get a little bit into VON Normandes, returned to game theory and his work in computer science, which we are all benefiting from literally every day. At this point, but first will have a word from one of our fantastic sponsors. Ok class, welcome to car leasing, one o one. Today's lesson is price negotiation first, take out your phone,
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throughout his work on the Manhattan project from nine men was also thinking once again of game theory which neither he nor anyone else had really done any significant work in since his publication of theory of parlor games and nineteen twenty eight So sixteen years after that paper in nineteen forty four VON Norman published a book he co, authored with Oscar Morgenstern, who was a prominent economists that book theory of games and economic a beer which, incidentally, is still in France and can be found in its entirety. Online made game theory incredibly popular. It is a day read that more than six hundred pages, but it got the intellectual community talking about how game theory could be applied to all kinds of different fields. Yet We became like a hot topic to talk about game theory as it related to everything from like business to leisure and everything in between
Eventually, man was also, as we ve been big. Mentioning leading up to. This was also a very key figure in the birth of modern computer. So, what's commonly known as any act, which is the electronic numerical into greater and computer, was a project the VON Norman who had a hand in after world war. Two U S. Army asked him to work on that project as a consultant and how The job is actually a really interesting story, so He was waiting on a train platform Herman each Goldstein. He was a mathematician and reserve officer of the ordnance department who was kind of working in the liaison capacity on this project, action recognized, run no men who was, of course famous in Reno math and physics and economic circles, and he walked up and introduced himself and the two men had a brief conversation and the result was a goal steam asked VON moment to travel, to Philadelphia to work on any act by
men built on the work of any acts- designers John, that are mutually and J Prosper- Egerton Junior, he shifted its designs and make it a pro ramble machine and, as he worked on the thirty time behemoth, he also began to see what the next generation of computer could be and as an aside, the computer, modeled weather forecasts that give us advance warning of hazards in conditions too, also owe their Genesis Divine Norman, because he let a team that harnessed any acts power to create new miracle weather forecasts. Fun Norman had a concept of a computer architecture where a programme and data stored in the same memory. That idea was the first of its kind, and once he concluded his work on any act, he returned to Institute for advance. Studying campaigned for a computer to be built with this structure. The answer: computer also used binary arithmetic rather than decimal numbers
an initially. This really seemed preposterous when he proposed the idea that would eventually manifest as the institute's electronic computer project that they had nothing. the time they were all doing their intellectual projects on their own and while some of them, Many colleagues thought it was a problematic concept and would just be a waste of resources there were others who supported and really fully championed it. Actually, this electronic computer project was set up in the basement of one and the institute's buildings Fold Hall At the same time, the army wanted additional computers built after the war and based on by Norman's work, which had begun when any act was not yet completed. The electronic discreet view viable automatic computer or at was built more school of engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. Just as any I had been, the advance was
using Van Norman, so called logical design, which he laid out in an initial report published on June thirtieth nineteen. Forty five can I read a little bit from it because it is so elegant these out, what a computer is he described in his introduction, exactly what is meant by the term automatic computing system, so quote, an automatic computing system is a usually highly composite device. Which can carry out instructions to perform calculations of a considerable order of complexity, Egypt, solving non partial differential equation in two or three independent variables. Numerically, the instruction. to govern. This operation must be given to the device and absolutely exhausted detail, then we would only miracle information which is required to solve the problem under considerations Initial and boundary values of the dependent variables values of fixed parameters, Constance tables of
functions, which occur in the statement of a problem. These instructions must be given in some which the device consents plunged into a system of punch cards or on a teletype tape. Magnetically impressed on steel, taper wire photographically impressed on motion your film wired into one or more fixed or exchangeable plug boards. This list being by no means necessarily complete all the procedures require the use of some code to express the logical and the outbreak definition of the problem under consideration, as well as the sorry numerical material once these instructions are into the device. It must be able to carry them out completely and without any need for further intelligent human intervention. At the end of the rope, operations. The device must record the results again in one of the forms referred to above the results are
miracle data. They are a specific part of the numerical material produced by the device in the process of carrying out the instructions referred above, as he continued to explain his logical structure of a computer that would be faster and more powerful than its predecessor by Norman opted to use biological similes, likening various components, of the larger hole to organs. This writing is the basis of the modern computer, which is now called VON Norman architecture. Von diamonds effort in computing. During this time, particularly the work that he published about their design did not overwhelmed with mostly an actor who were applying for a patent on their design. You recall they and any act and theirs We are really fantastic: patent moors battle about early computers. That would make an excellent episode all on its own one day, but for the scope of this one is enough.
the VON Norman publishing all of his information on structure around the world and that work being picked up by various entities. Were developing their own computers was enough to be really problem. Take for the any designers plans to get a patent. his work with the army. One moment also worked with the: U S: AIR Force and the Rand Corporation at the time, the two entities Collaborating on developing a nuclear strategy environment in his in theory became important to that process. He was a proponent of striking. The soviet with a hydrogen bombs who put us with and to their new a nuclear warfare. While more pacifist views, currently prevailed. Van Norman is credited with establishing the concept of mutual assured destruction as a conceptual strategy. He became a man of the armed Forces special weapons project in nineteen fifty, and he remained part of that project for five years in nineteen. Fifty
or by Norman, was appointed to the Atomic Energy Commission which serve to control the uses of nuclear technology and both weaponry and non military uses. He served on the coming until nineteen fifty six and run and was also awarded the Enrico Fermi Award in nineteen fifty six and that same year, President and how are also presented him with the presidential middle of freedom in nineteen fifty five, while working Atomic Energy Commission by Norman was diagnosed with bone cancer. He die On February eighth, nineteen. Fifty seven at the age of fifty three and Walter Reed Army Hospital and Bethesda Maryland, and he had spent his final days in a sweet there like he really had like this large area, and that was in part due to respect for who he was and what he had contributed, but it was also a matter of national security, so accord
to his daughters, memoir numerous high ranking military officials came to see him at the end to get as much information from him about his topsecret projects as possible before he died, so that the information did not go with additionally, a rotation of eight airmen served a security making. Sure VON Norman didn't tell any military secrets to anyone other than those with topsecret clearance, while he was under the influence of medication or just from exhaustion from fighting that cancer in nineteen sixty that computer he had developed for the instituted of advance study was donated to the Smithsonian and what really emerges when you read about women's personality is to me perhaps the most fascinating thing about him because while he was clearly a genius, he was also- ready, modest about those gifts. Despite an impressive list of accomplishments. He also felt that he had never lived up to what people had expected of a man of his talents.
Natural intellect and, while the Hetty unintentionally, intellectual major of his work, might lead to the assumption that, via Norman was a solitary nerdy type of person toiling away, it is formulas he was anything but that he was very outgoing, reliable, It is to navigate the egos and personalities of academia while being liked and admired by his colleagues, but it makes me chuckle because I I recall professors of talking about having what they termed knock down, drag out fights speckled faculty meetings- oh yeah, I have I have we both have friends in academia, and I hear like some very dramatic argument, type things he didn't seem to have those yeah. Someone with a natural talent like his could have easily developed superiority complex, but it really seems like run by Norman, did not yeah I get the senses
he was very aware that his his thinking Patsy, was at a level above most other people, but he didn't seem to to make that like a thing. He didn't that wasn't what defined him he did actually oh bump, into some problems. With colleagues particularly later when he was working in applied mathematics due to the fact that he would take them up, someone's idea like he would hear an idea and because he was so smart, he would often really quickly leap over what they had figured out and have ideas about how it could be solved and how to implement thing that he had thought of initially. And here This was just a matter of solving problems in exploring ideas, but to the people that he mentally leapfrogging. In the process. It was really frustrating and he never understood that point of view, because it never happened to him. but he was always so far ahead of everybody else. No one else could do the same thing back to him by Norman's
Cotter Maria on Norman Whitman wrote her memoir entitled the Martians dotterine twenty twelve, when in this memoir she relates his proclivity for expressing his emotional side through letters. through his riding. He advised her as a young woman about to graduate from college in the fifties to postpone her plan marriage. He was concerned that she would become tied to a housewife's life and not fulfil her own wife's potential. She did not put, yeah this really jumped out to me and was very striking because many fathers of that era basing their mortality. This was basically written from his death bed. Would We urge their daughter. Like yes settled down, you will have security, but VON Norman Price, intellectual pursuit above such things, he believed that every and had a moral obligation to use their intellects to its fullest possibility, and he wanted that for his daughter, as well as anyone else when I think like we're, not at all casting disparagement on people who choose
does now mainly today, but at the time with so much out of the norm for young women, but its striking that that was the tactic, the cheapest way to make the world richer but would be to get lots of his like yeah that seem like such a nice waited can wrap up VON women's life. It's interesting because, obviously he had a hand in it. up Van women's life, it's interesting because, obviously he had a hand in some incredibly destructive things. I think his motivations were you now, as we mention largely due to the fact that he had had been in Europe when he saw things going terribly poorly and wanted to change its that's one of the things that can always be debated, but he strikes me as such a fascinating man. There's some really fun footage that I stumbled across him where he did
parents talking to school children, and he has this really beautiful hungarian accent and he seemed so sweet and this one kid is asking him like your inventing, always knew things the computers and but who's gonna. And he's so like what we have to start training people. We have to start training young people when they are young, because if we wait until their adults and ask them to get twisted they'll, never know if they have natural talent for it or not. We will have wasted years of development and he just have such a lake complete Proponents angle on educating kids, which he had inherited, of course, from his parents and their parents before them, who had all merely promoted education, and it was this very charming so as to London, women who fascinate than delights me. Because the other wessner mail, I do How do I do this listener? Meal is another lovely gift from listener April and she writes hello early entry see how d from Whence Texas well
hitting the Molly Brown House in December last month. I found these handkerchiefs that look perfect for Parkhurst royalty to me. Thinkable Margaret Brown captures the spirit of stuff you missed in history. Glass, with her strength can do attitude and excellent sense of style. I was insane After listening to the show about the wasps to visit their museum in Sweetwater, I made sure to stop the wishing well we're graduates tossed in coins, and now Are they meet at the beginning of their reunions, It was an honour to walk around the fields where these remarkable women once flew. I made shirt send their likeness of the roll doll. Inspired Disney designed mascot fifteen our a cute little sticker that she sent us and, as you have probably already guessed, I have the deepest respect and admiration for your wonderful contests. One topic I wish to discuss is the occasion complained about the volume of shows about women. To me, the pot gas is not called stuff you already, guy this requires generally the lesson the lesser told, store
these are about the unsung and marginalized. I love hearing about the lives of inspiring people that make me so Well, thanks to you, I have the chance to be amazed several times a week, three cheers to the history Ladys that so sweet. Thank you so much Ebro answer. the sun adorable Stationary, whether Cuba on it. So thank you these handkerchiefs, Are these beautiful, delicate, little lace? Handkerchiefs, I love them. We also got some bookmarks from her the worst museum super sweet. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. If you would like to write to us, you can do so at history. Pon cast a house of lords dot com. You can also find us across the spectrum of social media as me in history, and you can find us I've missed in history, dot com, you can also visit our parents site, which is house. Don't work, start com typing anything you like in the search bar and you will come up with a wealth of options to explore and learn from you can go to our site. As I said, MR history dot com to find backup of every single observer targets as ever existed
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