Heroes of Computational Physics
Reading von Neumann's biography is like reading about the history of mathematics in the 20th century.
There are few fields he did not touch, and his contributions to many are substantial.
In addition to ergodic theory, lattice theory, operator theory, measure theory, and the axiomatization of quantum mechanics, he created the field of quantum logic, introduced mathematical rigor into game theory and economics, and made fundamental contributions to mathematical statistics.
But Von Neuman was a giant in the field of computing. The basic architecture of all modern computers, the "von Neumann architecture," describes a machine in which the program and the data are stored in the same address space in the computer's memory.
He created early pseudo-random number methods to support research in Monte Carlo methods.
He created the field of cellular automata, going so far as to generate the first computer virus, a cellular automaton capable of self-replication, by hand on paper.
Algorithmically, he is credited with inventing the merge sort algorithm, with Richtmyer he first
defined artificial viscosity for computational fluid dynamics of shock waves, and he began the
long tradition of computational physics in the nuclear weapons program by simulating and supporting
the implosion-type device.
This model is a shadowgram of the popular photograph of John von Neumann. From the back, it looks completely flat, but the front is raised such that light traveling through the piece generates an image of von Neumann. There is a convenient hole at the top of the plate from which to hang this piece, placed so that it will be perfectly level.