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The Man from the Future: The Visionary Life of John von Neumann Kindle Edition
An electrifying biography of one of the most extraordinary scientists of the twentieth century and the world he made.
The smartphones in our pockets and computers like brains. The vagaries of game theory and evolutionary biology. Nuclear weapons and self-replicating spacecrafts. All bear the fingerprints of one remarkable, yet largely overlooked, man: John von Neumann.
Born in Budapest at the turn of the century, von Neumann is one of the most influential scientists to have ever lived. A child prodigy, he mastered calculus by the age of eight, and in high school made lasting contributions to mathematics. In Germany, where he helped lay the foundations of quantum mechanics, and later at Princeton, von Neumann’s colleagues believed he had the fastest brain on the planet—bar none. He was instrumental in the Manhattan Project and the design of the atom bomb; he helped formulate the bedrock of Cold War geopolitics and modern economic theory; he created the first ever programmable digital computer; he prophesized the potential of nanotechnology; and, from his deathbed, he expounded on the limits of brains and computers—and how they might be overcome.
Taking us on an astonishing journey, Ananyo Bhattacharya explores how a combination of genius and unique historical circumstance allowed a single man to sweep through a stunningly diverse array of fields, sparking revolutions wherever he went. The Man from the Future is an insightful and thrilling intellectual biography of the visionary thinker who shaped our century.
Vivid…[The Man From the Future is] devoted to exploring the ideas and technological inquiries [von Neumann] inspired. —Jennifer Szalai, New York Times
Lucid and rewarding….Bhattacharya composes a rich intellectual map of von Neumann’s pursuits, shading in their histories and evolutions, and tracing the routes and connections between them.—Samanth Subramanian, The New Republic
Examines the tremendous impact von Neumann had on various scientific disciplines in eight exceptional chapters.—Dov Greenbaum and Mark Gerstein, Science
Rather like the books of Stephen Hawking or Carlo Rovelli…this one is rewarding on different levels. Everyone can grasp the significance of the puzzles posed, and if readers want to follow the genius through the steps of his solutions then Bhattacharya is a clear and authoritative guide.—The Economist
Non-Euclidean geometry, set theory, the prisoner’s dilemma, Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, self-replicating machines, game theory and nonlocality are among the astonishing range of topics that science journalist Ananyo Bhattacharya covers as he takes us on a whistle-stop tour through Von Neumann’s restless mind…[A] splendid new biography.—Manjit Kumar, Guardian
Bhattacharya both begins and concludes this impressive biography of John von Neumann by celebrating his contribution to the 'march of ideas.'—Francis P. Sempa, New York Journal of Books
Bhattacharya tells the story tremendously well, situating von Neumann’s work—in fields from quantum mechanics to game theory to cellular automata—as comfortably as I’ve ever seen it done. He’s also good at deadpan humor.—David Bodanis, Financial Times
Bhattacharya is a first-class science writer with an impeccable pedigree and he does the best job I have seen of explaining the significance of von Neumann's work across many different fields… A fine tribute to von Neumann's genius and his contributions to science.—John Gribbin, Literary Review
[An] agile, intelligent, intellectually enraptured account of Von Neumann’s life.—Simon Ings, Sunday Telegraph
Any future intelligence capable of sending a representative back in time to help invent itself will be intelligent enough to conceal this from us. Ananyo Bhattacharya’s The Man from the Future is therefore unable to confirm this suggestion, but much else about John von Neumann’s presence in the twentieth century is revealed along the way. —George Dyson, author of Turing's Cathedral
Despite his central contributions to the theory of computation, economics, logic, complexity, and quantum physics, somehow John von Neumann never became a household name to rival Einstein and Feynman. Ananyo Bhattacharya’s biography deserves to change that. Consistently clear and careful without sacrificing elegance or accessibility, it does full justice to this legendary figure of twentieth-century science.—Philip Ball, author of Beyond Weird
An engaging and fascinating book that blends science and history. I loved it.—Paul Davies, author of The Demon in the Machine
This is a sparkling book, with an intoxicating mix of pen-portraits and grand historical narrative. Above all, it fizzes with a dizzying mix of deliciously vital ideas. The Man from the Future is a staggering achievement. —Tim Harford, author of How to Make the World Add Up
More than just a biography, The Man from the Future elucidates the breath-taking scientific progress in the mid-20th century, skillfully woven together in the story of one man, John von Neumann. —Sabine Hossenfelder, author of Lost in Math
A gripping tale of the most significant mathematical, scientific and geopolitical events of the early 20th century. Bhattacharya’s storytelling seamlessly weaves together the science, the vibrant social and historical context, and the private idiosyncrasies of John von Neumann and the fascinating geniuses around him, without mythologizing.—Andrew Steele, author of Ageless
Sharp, expansive….A salient portrait of one of the most electrifying and productive scientists of the past century.—Kirkus Reviews --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
About the Author
- ASIN : B098TYZN67
- Publisher : W. W. Norton & Company (Feb. 22 2022)
- Language : English
- File size : 31159 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 355 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : 1324003995
- Best Sellers Rank: #44,260 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from Canada
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I read on a Kindle, and found that the illustrations were a many pages from the appropriate part of each story, which was disappointing.
Top reviews from other countries
As a result we get a lot more than a discussion of just his life but a series of enormously interesting vignettes on a wide cast, including his second wife, Klari, who has a good claim to be the world's first professional computer programmer, to John Nash via John Conway. Personally I found the parts on Stephen Wolfram of particular interest as they have given me an incentive to return to my copy of "A New Kind of Science" with a bit more grasp of what it's all about.
When I was a lot younger I used to see von Neumann as a sort of (slightly less evil) twin of Edward Teller, but this book helps give you a much wider perspective on why von Neumann adopted the positions he id (and shows that he didn't stab Oppenheimer in the back). Thankfully von Neumann's view that the US should launch a pre-emptive first strike on the Soviet Union was not heeded and it is possible to read all this now without the same dread as in the 80s (though as the book makes clear that doesn't mean nuclear annellation has disappeared as a threat).
I strongly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in a wide variety of mathematical and scientific fields. It would be a good present for any putative or recovering undergraduate.
Von Neumann made major contributions to quantum mechanics, the development of early computers, the theory of games, and thereby much of modern economics, the atom bomb project (for better or for worse), cellular automata, genetic engineering, and the development of artificial intelligence. And probably much else besides, since it seems likely some of his work in secret for the US government remains outside the public domain.
I have been aware of von Neumann’s influence in computing since the 1970s. The vast majority of digital electronic computers ever built (even today in the 2020s) follow something called the von Neumann architecture, which he originated in the 1940s. He therefore, 60 years after his death, continues to influence the design of every smart phone on the plant.
What I had no idea about was the breadth and quality of his contribution to other fields. To pick just one example the coining of the term “zero sum” is attributed to von Neumann.
Furthermore John von Neumann was clearly a bon vivant, which contributes to a lively biography.
Although the book reads likely a panegyric at times, the author does make a good job of supporting with his material with quotes and links to well-known figures in the respective fields. He also provides good brief introductions to the fields von Neumann worked in, allowing a wider public to get some understanding of von Neumann’s many and diverse contributions.
The book does have one or two technically suspect sections. For example (as noted by another Amazon reviewer) I don’t think Bhattacharya’s summary of what of Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem proves is quite right.
But on the whole a very good book: buy it!