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John von Neumann was a Jewish refugee from Hungary considered a “genius” like fellow Hungarians Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner and Edward Teller, who played key roles developing the A-bomb at Los Alamos during World War II. As a mathematician at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study (where Einstein was also a professor), von Neumann was a leader in the development of early John von Neumann was a Jewish refugee from Hungary considered a “genius” like fellow Hungarians Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner and Edward Teller, who played key roles developing the A-bomb at Los Alamos during World War II. As a mathematician at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study (where Einstein was also a professor), von Neumann was a leader in the development of early computers. Later, he developed the new field of game theory in economics and became a top nuclear arms policy adviser to the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. “I always thought [von Neumann’s] brain indicated that he belonged to a new species, an evolution beyond man. Macrae shows us in a lively way how this brain was nurtured and then left its great imprint on the world.” — Hans A. Bethe, Cornell University “The book makes for utterly captivating reading. Von Neumann was, of course, one of this century’s geniuses, and it is surprising that we have had to wait so long... for a fully fleshed and sympathetic biography of the man... It’s no small task to render a genius like von Neumann in ordinary language, yet Macrae manages the trick, providing more than a glimpse of what von Neumann accomplished intellectually without expecting the reader to have a Ph.D. in mathematics. Beyond that, he captures von Neumann’s qualities of temperament, mind, and personality, including his effortless wit and humor. And [Macrae] frames and accounts for von Neumann’s politics in ways that even critics of them, among whom I include myself, will find provocative and illuminating.” — Daniel J. Kevles, California Institute of Technology “The first full-scale biography of this polymath, who was born Jewish in Hungary in 1903 and died Roman Catholic in the United States at the age of 53. And Mr. Macrae has some great stories to tell... Mr. Macrae’s biography has rescued a lot of good science gossip from probable extinction, and has introduced many of us to the life story of a man we ought to know better.” — Ed Regis, The New York Times “A nice and fascinating picture of a genius who was active in so many domains.” —Zentralblatt MATH “Biographer Macrae takes a ‘viewspaperman’ approach which stresses the context and personalities associated with von Neumann’s remarkable life, rather than attempting to give a detailed scholarly analysis of von Neumann’s papers. The resulting book is a highly entertaining account that is difficult to put down.” — Journal of Mathematical Psychology “A full and intimate biography of ‘the man who consciously and deliberately set mankind moving along the road that led us into the Age of Computers.’” — Freeman Dyson, Princeton, NJ “It is good to have a biography of one of the most important mathematicians of the twentieth century, even if it is a biography that focuses much more on the man than on the mathematics.” — Fernando Q. Gouvêa, Mathematical Association of America “Macrae has written a valuable biography of this remarkable genius of our century, without the opacity of technical (mathematical) dimensions that are part of the hero’s intellectual contributions to humanity. Interesting, informative, illuminating, and insightful.” — Choice Review “Macrae paints a highly readable, humanizing portrait of a man whose legacy still influences and shapes modern science and knowledge.” — Resonance, Journal of Science Education “In this affectionate, humanizing biography, former Economist editor Macrae limns a prescient pragmatist who actively fought against fascism...


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John von Neumann was a Jewish refugee from Hungary considered a “genius” like fellow Hungarians Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner and Edward Teller, who played key roles developing the A-bomb at Los Alamos during World War II. As a mathematician at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study (where Einstein was also a professor), von Neumann was a leader in the development of early John von Neumann was a Jewish refugee from Hungary considered a “genius” like fellow Hungarians Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner and Edward Teller, who played key roles developing the A-bomb at Los Alamos during World War II. As a mathematician at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study (where Einstein was also a professor), von Neumann was a leader in the development of early computers. Later, he developed the new field of game theory in economics and became a top nuclear arms policy adviser to the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. “I always thought [von Neumann’s] brain indicated that he belonged to a new species, an evolution beyond man. Macrae shows us in a lively way how this brain was nurtured and then left its great imprint on the world.” — Hans A. Bethe, Cornell University “The book makes for utterly captivating reading. Von Neumann was, of course, one of this century’s geniuses, and it is surprising that we have had to wait so long... for a fully fleshed and sympathetic biography of the man... It’s no small task to render a genius like von Neumann in ordinary language, yet Macrae manages the trick, providing more than a glimpse of what von Neumann accomplished intellectually without expecting the reader to have a Ph.D. in mathematics. Beyond that, he captures von Neumann’s qualities of temperament, mind, and personality, including his effortless wit and humor. And [Macrae] frames and accounts for von Neumann’s politics in ways that even critics of them, among whom I include myself, will find provocative and illuminating.” — Daniel J. Kevles, California Institute of Technology “The first full-scale biography of this polymath, who was born Jewish in Hungary in 1903 and died Roman Catholic in the United States at the age of 53. And Mr. Macrae has some great stories to tell... Mr. Macrae’s biography has rescued a lot of good science gossip from probable extinction, and has introduced many of us to the life story of a man we ought to know better.” — Ed Regis, The New York Times “A nice and fascinating picture of a genius who was active in so many domains.” —Zentralblatt MATH “Biographer Macrae takes a ‘viewspaperman’ approach which stresses the context and personalities associated with von Neumann’s remarkable life, rather than attempting to give a detailed scholarly analysis of von Neumann’s papers. The resulting book is a highly entertaining account that is difficult to put down.” — Journal of Mathematical Psychology “A full and intimate biography of ‘the man who consciously and deliberately set mankind moving along the road that led us into the Age of Computers.’” — Freeman Dyson, Princeton, NJ “It is good to have a biography of one of the most important mathematicians of the twentieth century, even if it is a biography that focuses much more on the man than on the mathematics.” — Fernando Q. Gouvêa, Mathematical Association of America “Macrae has written a valuable biography of this remarkable genius of our century, without the opacity of technical (mathematical) dimensions that are part of the hero’s intellectual contributions to humanity. Interesting, informative, illuminating, and insightful.” — Choice Review “Macrae paints a highly readable, humanizing portrait of a man whose legacy still influences and shapes modern science and knowledge.” — Resonance, Journal of Science Education “In this affectionate, humanizing biography, former Economist editor Macrae limns a prescient pragmatist who actively fought against fascism...

30 review for John von Neumann: The Scientific Genius Who Pioneered the Modern Computer, Game Theory, Nuclear Deterrence, and Much More

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nick Black

    Amazon 2008-05-31. Ugh...the reviews of this one were rough, but I tried to ignore them. First off, the book has a weird appearance. Let's not count that against it, but the odd shape yielded a much longer read than the 400 pages suggest. Furthermore, I'd have liked to have seen good ol' comforting Computer Modern or CM-Super used in the typesetting of the American Mathematical Society -- the (irritatingly unlisted) typeface was rather tiring on the glazzies. But I digress. Macrae's editor notica Amazon 2008-05-31. Ugh...the reviews of this one were rough, but I tried to ignore them. First off, the book has a weird appearance. Let's not count that against it, but the odd shape yielded a much longer read than the 400 pages suggest. Furthermore, I'd have liked to have seen good ol' comforting Computer Modern or CM-Super used in the typesetting of the American Mathematical Society -- the (irritatingly unlisted) typeface was rather tiring on the glazzies. But I digress. Macrae's editor noticably dropped the ball here, to a point that's distracting. An odd dozen quotes are duplicated -- sometimes several times throughout -- each time with the clear intent to unveil something new. Macrae offers the bewildering conjecture that Fermi might have "advanced an Italian bomb effort...what a change that would have been!" The Duce's industrial base in 1939 had a technological ceiling at about the marble table/epaulette level -- I'm not often moved to an audible "moron" while reading, but there you go (some ten pages later, Macrae points out that the British lacked the physical plant for isotope separation -- is the man really that blissfully unaware of relative European industrial power following the Industrial Revolution? Jesus!). On page 62, "nine-tenths" is used, which context on page 63 makes plain to have intended "one-tenth"; c'mon, this is a fucking American Mathematical publication about a mathematician written by a mathematician, get your fractions correct. There's a very uneven nature to the chapters; the first three are florid and lively, the 11th (regarding economic contributions) fairly excellent, the remainder largely staid. We learn on the final pages that these initial chapters were handed down largely unchanged from Stephen White, the project's initiator, and that Macrae's professional focus included economics. Argh! This seems clearly an example of a noble project placed in the wrong hands. Macrae's Nippophilic ejaculations become uninteresting diversion after the first few dozen instances, turning eventually bewildering and finally pathetic. Johnny was among the greatest minds of the last century, and deserved better. Macrae makes it clear in his Foreward that this is a labor of love (actually a commissioned hagiography by the Sloan Foundation, we learn later). Von Neumann's was a hard life to capture in still; Oppenheimer biographies advance unceasingly even after Kay and Bird settled that mysterious old wizard, and a stone can't be thrown at Barnes and Noble without hitting some tiring hundredth investigation of Einstein, yet this is only the third minor biography of Von Neumann. He's a difficult target for the biographer, especially the modern one. But, he's my favorite, and the few new anecdotes I could wring out of this stillborn effort spare it the Ninth Circle of single-starhood.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Alexander Polsky

    John von Neumann is a subject deserving a great biography, one of the most important minds of the 20th century. This isn't that biography, sadly. Norman Macrae was a well respected economist and editor at the Economist in London, and should have been in the position to write something excellent. Instead this reads like a phone-it-in work of lazy scholarship, relying on the superlatives associated with the subject rather than actually doing the work required to produce a biography commensurate wit John von Neumann is a subject deserving a great biography, one of the most important minds of the 20th century. This isn't that biography, sadly. Norman Macrae was a well respected economist and editor at the Economist in London, and should have been in the position to write something excellent. Instead this reads like a phone-it-in work of lazy scholarship, relying on the superlatives associated with the subject rather than actually doing the work required to produce a biography commensurate with the importance of the subject. John von Neumann still awaits an adequate biography.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ari

    John von Neumann was one of the preeminent scientists and thinkers of the second quarter of the twentieth century. This is nearly the only full-length biography of him; it doesn't quite do him justice but it's the best available. The book's style is breezy and digressive; the author intrudes regularly. The book was started by another author and then finished by Macrae; it leans heavily on secondary sources like Richard Rhodes, Ulam's memoir, etc. However, the family did cooperate in the project a John von Neumann was one of the preeminent scientists and thinkers of the second quarter of the twentieth century. This is nearly the only full-length biography of him; it doesn't quite do him justice but it's the best available. The book's style is breezy and digressive; the author intrudes regularly. The book was started by another author and then finished by Macrae; it leans heavily on secondary sources like Richard Rhodes, Ulam's memoir, etc. However, the family did cooperate in the project and checked over the manuscript. The author is not a mathematician or scientist and repeatedly confesses to being overwhelmed by the technical details. The big thing I learned from this book is that von Neumann was not so much "a math genius" as a genius, simply. He had no particular gift of physical intuition or geometric imagination. He did math by formal manipulation, which he could do in his head very well. He spoke seven languages; he was able to easily memorize anything he chose to; he was a wonderfully clear writer; his perceptions of world events were much more accurate than most of the people around him. (As Macrae points out, his reputation as being a right-wing maniac is undeserved; Johnny preferred Truman to Dewey, and was considerably to the left of E. O. Lawrence.) Part of what is striking about him is that the big accomplishments of his career -- computing, game theory, and so forth -- aren't mathematically deep. They are major intellectual syntheses, but the complexity and insight isn't deep mathematically. Partly his skill was to wander into a new field and very rapidly apply the math he already knew. (For example, he introduced the use of octal to transcribe computer numbers; this is a clever use of mathematics, but not deep.) There's a stereotype of the scientist who can't talk to people. Johnny famously could talk to anybody, and liked playing with children. (Teller once commented that he wondered if Johnny related to his fellow scientists in the same way he did with children.) He got along well with all his colleagues and had essentially no serious conflicts with anybody. He was a savvy bureaucratic maneuverer who played off the Army and Navy to maximize his independence when working on the IAS computer.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alan Parker

    Interesting biography of a genius, but an irritating author, who keeps intruding, for self-congratulating comments, because his political ideas coincide of those of Neumann.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Don

    An interesting portrait of one of the geniuses of the 20th century, important contributor to Allied success in WWII, and to the emerging computer age. The author portrays Von Neumann's whirlwind of brilliance affecting all with whom he came into contact in a myriad of fields. I was struck, as well, by the characterization of the culture of early 20th-century Budapest and its continuing influence on Von Neumann's work. I followed this book with a biography of Von Neumann collaborator, competitor, An interesting portrait of one of the geniuses of the 20th century, important contributor to Allied success in WWII, and to the emerging computer age. The author portrays Von Neumann's whirlwind of brilliance affecting all with whom he came into contact in a myriad of fields. I was struck, as well, by the characterization of the culture of early 20th-century Budapest and its continuing influence on Von Neumann's work. I followed this book with a biography of Von Neumann collaborator, competitor, fellow prodigy and mathematician extraordinaire, Norbert Wiener (Conway and Siegelman, Dark Hero of the Information Age) and found this coupling particularly interesting in the contrasting personalities and styles of these two seminal thinkers and creators!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dan Slimmon

    Not a bad biography. Certainly not rife with technical detail about Von Neumann's work, but then it isn't meant to be. I do think that the writer, excited to have similar political views to those of a true genius, gets a little too excited about defending Von Neumann from detractors – most of which are strawmen anyway. Not a bad biography. Certainly not rife with technical detail about Von Neumann's work, but then it isn't meant to be. I do think that the writer, excited to have similar political views to those of a true genius, gets a little too excited about defending Von Neumann from detractors – most of which are strawmen anyway.

  7. 5 out of 5

    William Hearst

    This is an academic biography. So the prose is a bit plodding, and stiff; and the sequence of life events reads like a timeline, rather than a life lived. However ... the personality, mind, and accomplishments of JvN are so magnificent that the pages keep turning. Until a few years ago thee was no really good biography of Enrico Fermi - now there are two very good ones. Took some 60 years to consider Fermi properly. It may take another 60 years before JvN gets a first rate biography. In the mean This is an academic biography. So the prose is a bit plodding, and stiff; and the sequence of life events reads like a timeline, rather than a life lived. However ... the personality, mind, and accomplishments of JvN are so magnificent that the pages keep turning. Until a few years ago thee was no really good biography of Enrico Fermi - now there are two very good ones. Took some 60 years to consider Fermi properly. It may take another 60 years before JvN gets a first rate biography. In the meantime this is clearly the best. One might also discover profile info written by Stan Ulam; and JvN's daughter wrote lovingly and with clarity about her father. By every account JvN was a Martian - defined as somebody whose mental abilities seem unworldly. He was a bon vivant who dressed like a banker, not an academic. He brought originality and depth to every subject he touched. From bomb design, to the structure of computing machines, to poker strategy. He could move seamlessly from abstract reasoning to applied problems. Genius is too facile a description. One might wish for more insight into his personal life, but the hints are there, and this is surely the best book available to motivate an interest in this great scientist, and his work.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    The first 5-7 chapters were a brilliant look into the environment and mind of a young prodigy. I didn't expect much going into it. That said I did have a few questions before I started: 1. How and why was John Von Neumann so brilliant? 2. What was the extent of his work. The first was answered really well in the first 5 chapters. The second... not so much. You do get glimmers of what he was involved in, but one never gets to what extent he made any groundbreaking contributions. They are merely impl The first 5-7 chapters were a brilliant look into the environment and mind of a young prodigy. I didn't expect much going into it. That said I did have a few questions before I started: 1. How and why was John Von Neumann so brilliant? 2. What was the extent of his work. The first was answered really well in the first 5 chapters. The second... not so much. You do get glimmers of what he was involved in, but one never gets to what extent he made any groundbreaking contributions. They are merely implied and explanations tend to omit specificities that would have made the nature of contributions far more revealing. There's much to be said about how Johnny is portrayed in this biography but I found the structure of the book in its latter parts somewhat confusing. There'd be a brief dive into his work at Los Alamos and a subsequent conversation about the progression of his cancer. In between those is a mixture of historical occurrences that have little to do with one another. There also seems to be a slight disdain for Einstein by the biographer for seemingly ideological reasons.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ahmet Akur

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Yazar, sanırım çok zeki bir kişi hakkında biyografi yazıyorum ben de boş gözükmeyeyim şeklinde düşünüp witty olmaya çalışmış baya. Çok da başaramamış bence, biraz itici geldi o yüzden:/ Diğer bir sevmediğim nokta da kitap resmen bir yandan da antikomunizm propagandası yapıyor. Von Neuman sonuçta 2. Dünya Savaşı’nda ve sonrasında Soğuk Savaş’ta sürekli Rusya karşısında yer almış, potansiyel Rusya tehdidine karşı projeler üretmiş bir insan. Biyografisinde de onun Rusya ve komünizm hakkındaki görüş Yazar, sanırım çok zeki bir kişi hakkında biyografi yazıyorum ben de boş gözükmeyeyim şeklinde düşünüp witty olmaya çalışmış baya. Çok da başaramamış bence, biraz itici geldi o yüzden:/ Diğer bir sevmediğim nokta da kitap resmen bir yandan da antikomunizm propagandası yapıyor. Von Neuman sonuçta 2. Dünya Savaşı’nda ve sonrasında Soğuk Savaş’ta sürekli Rusya karşısında yer almış, potansiyel Rusya tehdidine karşı projeler üretmiş bir insan. Biyografisinde de onun Rusya ve komünizm hakkındaki görüşlerini aktarmakta sorun yok. Ama yazar, Von Neuman’ın görüşlerinden sekerek kendi görüşlerini de belirtiyor ve ilk paragrafta belirttiğim witty olma çabasıyla iğneliyor sürekli. Ama her şey çok karikatürize ve kötü. Tüm bunlara rağmen Von Neuman’ın hayatıyla ilgili ve dönemin diğer önde gelen biliminsanlarıyla ilgili baya bir şey öğrenilebilir. Bu konular merak ettiğiniz şeylerse veya verimlilik için gaza ihtiyacınız varsa, okunabilir.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Vidur Kapur

    A well-structured, largely captivating biography of one of the most intelligent people to have ever lived. The author’s political comments were occasionally irritating (even when they were sentiments I shared), but apart from that the book gives one almost everything one could wish for in a biography: amusing anecdotes, but also an accessible exposition of the subject’s work. The earlier chapters, which charted the influence of von Neumann’s upbringing on his eventual academic path, were perhaps A well-structured, largely captivating biography of one of the most intelligent people to have ever lived. The author’s political comments were occasionally irritating (even when they were sentiments I shared), but apart from that the book gives one almost everything one could wish for in a biography: amusing anecdotes, but also an accessible exposition of the subject’s work. The earlier chapters, which charted the influence of von Neumann’s upbringing on his eventual academic path, were perhaps the strongest. I look forward to Ananyo Bhattacharya’s treatment of von Neumann, due to be published relatively soon.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Øystein Sjølie

    Good biography on a mathematical genius, embodying world history in the first half of the 20th century. From a privileged upbringing in an intellectual Jewish family in Budapest, von Neumann studied simultaneously in Berlin and Zurich. In the late 1920s, he fled Europe for the US, anticipating the worst from the aspiring Nazis. He contributed to revolutionize physics and nuclear research, and played an invaluable part in the development of modern computers. He also made ground-breaking research Good biography on a mathematical genius, embodying world history in the first half of the 20th century. From a privileged upbringing in an intellectual Jewish family in Budapest, von Neumann studied simultaneously in Berlin and Zurich. In the late 1920s, he fled Europe for the US, anticipating the worst from the aspiring Nazis. He contributed to revolutionize physics and nuclear research, and played an invaluable part in the development of modern computers. He also made ground-breaking research in game theory, and advised the economics profession to invent a new type of math better suited its particular characteristics.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Emanuele Gemelli

    One of the worst biographies I have ever read; the Author's presence feels too big, sidelining the main character of the story (it's a biography!). It's a pity because the character is fascinating and a deeper and more refined discussion of the discoveries would have made more justice to Von Neumann. One of the worst biographies I have ever read; the Author's presence feels too big, sidelining the main character of the story (it's a biography!). It's a pity because the character is fascinating and a deeper and more refined discussion of the discoveries would have made more justice to Von Neumann.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Diego Arredondo

    I never think about such a brilliant mind, how much there is to learn about, those mysterious fellows from that little country. The brilliant father that nurture that amazing mind. I can't do nothing more than try to follow some , at least one, step . At the end, the history of someone who taught me to keep thinking, keep learning. I'm humbled I never think about such a brilliant mind, how much there is to learn about, those mysterious fellows from that little country. The brilliant father that nurture that amazing mind. I can't do nothing more than try to follow some , at least one, step . At the end, the history of someone who taught me to keep thinking, keep learning. I'm humbled

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ian Welke

    Interesting subject matter, terrible writing.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Drain

    I shared dozens of von Neumann anecdotes in the weeks and months after reading this book. The man is a legend.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Hildey

    The first few chapters are great but then the quality quickly deteriorates. Still offers a great look at von Neumann and other academics though.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sandy Maguire

    The first two chapters of this are fantastically inspiring. The first talks in detail about how von Neumann looked at the world, and approached problems. The second describes his unusual upbringing, and it's something I plan to reread when I'm expecting a child. Five of out five stars for this first bit. Unfortunately, the rest of the book isn't able to keep up. Unlike Feynman, von Neumann turns out to just not have been a very interesting character. Sure, he was brilliant, but the author is quic The first two chapters of this are fantastically inspiring. The first talks in detail about how von Neumann looked at the world, and approached problems. The second describes his unusual upbringing, and it's something I plan to reread when I'm expecting a child. Five of out five stars for this first bit. Unfortunately, the rest of the book isn't able to keep up. Unlike Feynman, von Neumann turns out to just not have been a very interesting character. Sure, he was brilliant, but the author is quick to remind us that he (the author) isn't nearly smart enough to help you understand von Neumann. Despite this, he is clearly and unequivocally in love with von Neumann. Often the book will meander into "von Neumann thought this. Other people said he was wrong. But they didn't actually understand what he was talking about." Like, at least five times. But the author reminds us that *he* also doesn't understand what von Neumann was talking about. So, how can he be so sure that von Neumann *wasn't wrong?* I'd be willing to let this slide once or twice with the proper citation, but none are given and the author continually apologizes for von Neumann. Genius he might have been, but never being wrong isn't a part of genius. Along similar lines, a big chunk of this book is the history *around* von Neumann---things like the Manhattan Project and the origin of electronic computers. For the most part, von Neumann doesn't play much of a part in these histories, and in each section the author tells us "this story is better told in book X." I found myself wondering why not just read those books instead? In all, von Neumann comes off as a Mary Sue. He can do no wrong in the author's eyes, and whenever he comes close, the author is sure to quote someone who says how lovely and brilliant Johnny was. It's boring as a historical read, and boring as a character study. Read the first two chapters and then skip the rest.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    I've been somewhat fascinated by John von Neumann ever since I heard of him so I was almost certain to get a lot from this book, which I did. However, it isn't without it's flaws. The amount of time spent recounting names, dates, times etc. seems excessive despite their important place in a biography. The author regularly refers back to people who haven't been mentioned in a long time as if they'd only just been introduced, requiring a constant flitting back and forth between the index which brea I've been somewhat fascinated by John von Neumann ever since I heard of him so I was almost certain to get a lot from this book, which I did. However, it isn't without it's flaws. The amount of time spent recounting names, dates, times etc. seems excessive despite their important place in a biography. The author regularly refers back to people who haven't been mentioned in a long time as if they'd only just been introduced, requiring a constant flitting back and forth between the index which breaks the flow of the book terribly, at least for us pathetic souls without eidetic memories. The book also has a disjointed feel to it that is no doubt partly due to the book being the result of the author picking up where others had left off, but also seems to be down to the style of writing. I imagine all of this could have been rectified with a good editor, assuming there was one. Niggles aside, this a good, well-researched biography on a fascinating individual who is deserving of far more attention and praise than he gets. We miss you, János.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tim Holme

    von Neumann was an important and charismatic genius who left an imprint across a wide array of fields. It was interesting to hear about his childhood development, where he was raised among the world elites at the time in Budapest (who knew?). His life also is a lens into some of the important trends of the 20th century: the uprooting of the entire Physics community from Europe to America due to Nazism, and trends of the cold war and Atomic Age like computing, game theory, and deterrence. Unfortun von Neumann was an important and charismatic genius who left an imprint across a wide array of fields. It was interesting to hear about his childhood development, where he was raised among the world elites at the time in Budapest (who knew?). His life also is a lens into some of the important trends of the 20th century: the uprooting of the entire Physics community from Europe to America due to Nazism, and trends of the cold war and Atomic Age like computing, game theory, and deterrence. Unfortunately, the author isn't enough of a scientist or mathematician to be able to explain von Neumann's work, which would have made the book truly fascinating -- but probably inaccessible to laymen. Still, a decent read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Roger Blakesley

    An extremely informative book on one of the great minds of the last few hundred years. He had a life unfortunately shortened by atomic radiation. But his accomplishments were stupendous and the book reflects that. It defers attacks from von Neumann's enemies. Some of the darker things might have been nice to know; but it was not a whitewash of von Neumann either. The author refers to von Neumann as "Johnny" throughout, and I found that distracting and disrespectful in such a biography. But the au An extremely informative book on one of the great minds of the last few hundred years. He had a life unfortunately shortened by atomic radiation. But his accomplishments were stupendous and the book reflects that. It defers attacks from von Neumann's enemies. Some of the darker things might have been nice to know; but it was not a whitewash of von Neumann either. The author refers to von Neumann as "Johnny" throughout, and I found that distracting and disrespectful in such a biography. But the author clearly explains why he did so. The writing style is very kludgy. It could good use a good rewrite and some polish. But I think it gets the facts straight.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gregor

    Johnny worked till the last day of his life, thinking and inventing all the time. This book fascinatingly shows his role in the development of the computer and many other things. Surprising how involved with the military he was, and certain concepts made me reconsider my pacifist philosophy. A life with so strong a statement: to be alive and curious.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Clayton Brannon

    Extraordinary read about a great American scientist. So much of todays technology rest upon the mathematical skills of this one man. Genius. For superior to anyone of his time including Einstein and many others.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Luis Martinez

    Man's are from Mars! Man's are from Mars!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bria

    It was so dryly written, making it almost impossible to read, which is too bad, because I wanted to get excited about math geniuses.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Zdravko

    the writing could have been better, but i enjoyed reading this book immensely. i felt a bit like the kid i was when i read the chapter on syd barrett in a book on pink floyd. :)

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hayden

    A good overview blend of history, science, and mathematics. This book can easily be a springboard into further investigations in any of these areas.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  28. 4 out of 5

    Taylor Sando

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Herron

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jason

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