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John von Neumann (1903 – 1957)


Hungarian-American-German-Jewish mathematician and computer scientist, generally regarded as one of the foremost mathematicians of the 20th century.
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John von Neumann
You don't have to be responsible for the world that you're in.
Neumann quotes
A deep sense of humor and an unusual ability for telling stories and jokes endeared Johnny even to casual acquaintances. He could be blunt when necessary, but was never pompous. A mind of von Neumann's inexorable logic had to understand and accept much that most of us do not want to accept and do not even wish to understand. This fact colored many of von Neumann's moral judgments. … Only scientific intellectual dishonesty and misappropriation of scientific results could rouse his indignation and ire — but these did — and did almost equally whether he himself, or someone else, was wronged.
Neumann
A large part of mathematics which becomes useful developed with absolutely no desire to be useful, and in a situation where nobody could possibly know in what area it would become useful; and there were no general indications that it ever would be so. By and large it is uniformly true in mathematics that there is a time lapse between a mathematical discovery and the moment when it is useful; and that this lapse of time can be anything from 30 to 100 years, in some cases even more; and that the whole system seems to function without any direction, without any reference to usefulness, and without any desire to do things which are useful.




Neumann John von quotes
There probably is a God. Many things are easier to explain if there is than if there isn't.
Neumann John von
Any one who considers arithmetical methods of producing random digits is, of course, in a state of sin. For, as has been pointed out several times, there is no such thing as a random number — there are only methods to produce random numbers, and a strict arithmetic procedure of course is not such a method.
John von Neumann quotes
The calculus was the first achievement of modern mathematics and it is difficult to overestimate its importance. I think it defines more unequivocally than anything else the inception of modern mathematics; and the system of mathematical analysis, which is its logical development, still constitutes the greatest technical advance in exact thinking.
John von Neumann
You wake me up early in the morning to tell me that I'm right? Please wait until I'm wrong.
Neumann John von quotes
If one has really technically penetrated a subject, things that previously seemed in complete contrast, might be purely mathematical transformations of each other.
Neumann
If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is.
Neumann John von
Young man, in mathematics you don't understand things. You just get used to them.
John von Neumann
It is just as foolish to complain that people are selfish and treacherous as it is to complain that the magnetic field does not increase unless the electric field has a curl. Both are laws of nature.




John von Neumann quotes
I think that it is a relatively good approximation to truth — which is much too complicated to allow anything but approximations — that mathematical ideas originate in empirics. But, once they are conceived, the subject begins to live a peculiar life of its own and is ... governed by almost entirely aesthetical motivations. In other words, at a great distance from its empirical source, or after much "abstract" inbreeding, a mathematical subject is in danger of degeneration. Whenever this stage is reached the only remedy seems to me to be the rejuvenating return to the source: the reinjection of more or less directly empirical ideas.
John von Neumann
When we talk mathematics, we may be discussing a secondary language built on the primary language of the nervous system.
Neumann quotes
It is exceptional that one should be able to acquire the understanding of a process without having previously acquired a deep familiarity with running it, with using it, before one has assimilated it in an instinctive and empirical way... Thus any discussion of the nature of intellectual effort in any field is difficult, unless it presupposes an easy, routine familiarity with that field. In mathematics this limitation becomes very severe.
Neumann John von
The goys have proven the following theorem...
Neumann John von quotes
The only student of mine I was ever intimidated by. He was so quick. There was a seminar for advanced students in Zürich that I was teaching and von Neumann was in the class. I came to a certain theorem, and I said it is not proved and it may be difficult. Von Neumann didn't say anything but after five minutes he raised his hand. When I called on him he went to the blackboard and proceeded to write down the proof. After that I was afraid of von Neumann.
John von Neumann
With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.
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