Biography and History

Hungarian-born John Von Neumann was a world-famous mathematician. Between 1930 and 1933 he was a visiting professor of mathematical physics at Princeton University and one of four people selected for the first faculty of Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study (one of the others was Albert Einstein), position he held from its formation in 1933 until his death. The best known of Von Neumann's accomplishments was his development of one of the speediest, most accurate, and most useful computers, which made the essential calculations that enabled the United States to build and test its first full model of the hydrogen bomb. Another computer he later developed enabled the Navy to do twenty-four hour weather predictions in a few minutes and helped the armed forces plan the movement of men and material by mathematically simulating logistic problems. His work in quantum mechanics gave him a profound knowledge concerning the application of nuclear energy to military and peacetime uses, enabling him to occupy an important place in the scientific councils of the nation. During the Second World War, Von Neumann played a major role among the scientists who developed the atomic bomb. He was a member of the Atomic Energy Commission and a key consultant to the American Air Force on nuclear weapons.

The Magnetic Drum Digital Differential Analyzer (ADDIA) was a computer built by Northrop Aircraft Corporation in 1950.

Source: From the finding aid for C1245

  • Department of Mathematics Oral History Project records. 1984-1985 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC057

    Princeton University's Department of Mathematics, founded in 1904 under the chairmanship of Henry Burchard Fine, saw the development of a unique mathematical community in the 1930s that was unlike any other in America before that time and perhaps afterwards, and that had important consequences for American mathematics. The collection consists of written transcripts of 42 interviews with surviving faculty and students of the mathematics community in Princeton in the 1930s, as well as recordings of the interviews, microfilm of interview transcripts, background information on the project, and an archived website that was created in 1999 to provide online access to the interview transcripts and related information.

  • John Von Neumann Collection. 1919-1949 (bulk), 1919-1966 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C1245

    Consists of selected letters and a manuscript of John Von Neumann, one of the 20th century's preeminent mathematicians, and an early pioneer in fields such as game theory, nuclear deterrence, and modern computing.