> When George Dantzig brought von Neumann an unsolved problem in linear programming "as I would to an ordinary mortal", on which there had been no published literature, he was astonished when von Neumann said "Oh, that!", before offhandedly giving a lecture of over an hour, explaining how to solve the problem using the hitherto unconceived theory of duality.
Gotta love the man...
> Despite being a notoriously bad driver, he nonetheless enjoyed driving—frequently while reading a book—occasioning numerous arrests, as well as accidents.
Totally irresponsible and dangerous, but I can't help but find it hilarious.
It is quite strange as well what he did as he found out he was terminally ill. He began to write a treatise on the way computers relate to brains. It is in a book called “ The computer and the brain” it is a rather easy read, and the only thing of his that I have read, but it shows his quest for eternal life in a way...
There is a quote from one of his friends that Neumann suffered more than any human being his friend had ever seen as Neumann noticed himself losing his mental faculties before his death.
There's smart, and then there is "make esteemed mathematicians cry when seeing your mathematical ability as a teenager" smart
Neumann was a prodigy that delivered out of this world
He created the basic logical structure for how modern computers work: a central processor with registers and accessing memory by address.
Two bicyclists start 20 miles apart and head toward each other, each going at a steady rate of 10 mph. At the same time a fly that travels at a steady 15 mph starts from the front wheel of the southbound bicycle and flies to the front wheel of the northbound one, then turns around and flies to the front wheel of the southbound one again, and continues in this manner till he is crushed between the two front wheels. Question: what total distance did the fly cover? The slow way to find the answer is to calculate what distance the fly covers on the first, northbound, leg of the trip, then on the second, southbound, leg, then on the third, etc., etc., and, finally, to sum the infinite series so obtained.
The quick way is to observe that the bicycles meet exactly one hour after their start, so that the fly had just an hour for his travels; the answer must therefore be 15 miles.
When the question was put to von Neumann, he solved it in an instant, and thereby disappointed the questioner: "Oh, you must have heard the trick before!" "What trick?" asked von Neumann, "All I did was sum the geometric series."
He is Known for (according to wikipedia):
Abelian von Neumann algebra
Arithmetic logic unit
Axiom of regularity
Axiom of limitation of size
Blast wave (fluid dynamics)
Bounded set (topological vector space)
Class (set theory)
Decoherence theory (quantum mechanics)
Doubly stochastic matrix
Hilbert's fifth problem
Hyperfinite type II factor
Inner model theory
Interior point method
Koopman–von Neumann classical mechanics
Monte Carlo method
Mutual assured destruction
Pseudorandom number generator
Quantum mutual information
Quantum statistical mechanics
Standard probability space
Stone–von Neumann theorem
Von Neumann algebra
Von Neumann architecture
Von Neumann bicommutant theorem
Von Neumann cardinal assignment
Von Neumann cellular automaton
Von Neumann interpretation
Von Neumann measurement scheme
Von Neumann Ordinals
Von Neumann universal constructor
Von Neumann entropy
Von Neumann Equation
Von Neumann neighborhood
Von Neumann paradox
Von Neumann regular ring
Von Neumann–Bernays–Gödel set theory
Von Neumann universe
Von Neumann spectral theorem
Von Neumann conjecture
Von Neumann ordinal
Von Neumann's inequality
Von Neumann's trace inequality
Von Neumann stability analysis
Von Neumann extractor
Von Neumann ergodic theorem
Von Neumann–Morgenstern utility theorem
ZND detonation model
When Edward Teller ( father of the atomic bomb)(hydrogen, I stand corrected)*said he couldn't keep up with him, that's saying something
My favorite quote of his:
"If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is."
Von Neumann might be the last of the true polymaths. Fields have gotten too sophisticated nowadays for a single person to make enormous contributions to more than a couple.
It's amazing, though: Von Neumann likely was as influential in physics as Einstein, and yet is also similarly influential in a dozen other fields. I always wonder why Einstein is more conventionally famous.