John von Neumann (December 28, 1903 – February 8, 1957) was a Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, computer scientist, engineer and polymath. He had perhaps the widest coverage of any mathematician of his time, integrating pure and applied sciences and making major contributions to many fields, including mathematics, physics, economics, computing, and statistics. He was a pioneer in building the mathematical framework of quantum physics, in the development of functional analysis, and in game theory, introducing or codifying concepts including cellular automata, the universal constructor and the digital computer. His analysis of the structure of self-replication preceded the discovery of the structure of DNA.

**John von Neumann Quotes**

1. “Young man, in mathematics you don’t understand things. You just get used to them.”

**— John von Neumann**

2. “If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is.”

**— John von Neumann**

3. “Computers are like humans – they do everything except think.”

—** John von Neumann**

4. “Truth is much too complicated to allow anything but approximations.”

**— John von Neumann**

5. “You insist that there is something a machine cannot do. If you tell me precisely what it is a machine cannot do, then I can always make a machine which will do just that.”

**— John von Neumann**

6. “With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.”

**— John von Neumann**

7. “When we talk mathematics, we may be discussing a secondary language built on the primary language of the nervous system.”

**— John von Neumann**

8. “There’s no sense in being precise when you don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

**— John von Neumann**

9. “All stable processes we shall predict. All unstable processes we shall control.”

**— John von Neumann**

10. “There probably is a God. Many things are easier to explain if there is than if there isn’t.”

**— John von Neumann**

11. “Technological possibilities are irresistible to man. If man can go to the moon, he will. If he can control the climate, he will.”

**— John von Neumann**

12. “Science, as well as technology, will in the near and in the farther future increasingly turn from problems of intensity, substance, and energy, to problems of structure, organization, information, and control.”

**— John von Neumann**

13. “I am thinking about something much more important than bombs. I am thinking about computers.”

**— John von Neumann**

14. “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**

15. “You don’t have to be responsible for the world that you’re in.”

**— John von Neumann**

16. “Anyone who attempts to generate random numbers by deterministic means is, of course, living in a state of sin.”

**— John von Neumann**

17. “The total subject of mathematics is clearly too broad for any of us. I do not think that any mathematician since Gauss has covered it uniformly and fully; even Hilbert did not and all of us are of considerably lesser width quite apart from the question of depth than Hilbert.”

**— John von Neumann**

18. “The emphasis on mathematical methods seems to be shifted more towards combinatorics and set theory – and away from the algorithm of differential equations which dominates mathematical physics.”

**— John von Neumann**

19. “You wake me up early in the morning to tell me I am right? Please wait until I am wrong.”

**— John von Neumann**

20. “I would like to make a confession which may seem immoral: I do not believe in Hilbert space anymore.”

**— John von Neumann**

21. “Life is a process which may be abstracted from other media.”

**— John von Neumann**

22. “If one has really technically penetrated a subject, things that previously seemed in complete contrast, might be purely mathematical transformations of each other.”

**— John von Neumann**

23. “Neumann, to a physicist seeking help with a difficult problem: Simple. This can be solved by using the method of characteristics. Physicist: I’m afraid I don’t understand the method of characteristics. Neumann: In mathematics you don’t understand things. You just get used to them.”

**— John von Neumann**

24. “Can we survive technology?”

**— John von Neumann**

25. “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.”

**— John von Neumann**

26. “The most vitally characteristic fact about mathematics is, in my opinion, its quite peculiar relationship to the natural sciences, or more generally, to any science which interprets experience on a higher than purely descriptive level.”

**— John von Neumann**

27. “In any conceivable method ever invented by man, an automaton which produces an object by copying a pattern, will go first from the pattern to a description to the object. It first abstracts what the thing is like, and then carries it out. It’s therefore simpler not to extract from a real object its definition, but to start from the definition.”

**— John von Neumann**

28. “An element which stimulates itself will hold a stimulus indefinitely.”

**— John von Neumann**

29. “It is only proper to realize that language is largely a historical accident.”

**— John von Neumann**

30. “In this sense, an object is of the highest degree of complexity if it can do very difficult and involved things.”

**— John von Neumann**

31. “Natura non facis Saltus.”

**— John von Neumann**

32. “A system of logical instructions that an automaton can carry out and which causes the automaton to perform some organized task is called a code.”

**— John von Neumann**

33. “The sciences do not try to explain, they hardly even try to interpret, they mainly make models. By a model is meant a mathematical construct which, with the addition of certain verbal interpretations, describes observed phenomena. The justification of such a mathematical construct is solely and precisely that it is expected to work.”

**— John von Neumann**