Brain Theory pp 239-240 | Cite as

John von Neumann: The Computer and the Brain

  • W. J. Freeman


“Johnnie” von Neumann lived and worked among the brightest and most accomplished physicists and mathematicians of his era, the age of quantum mechanics and the “The Bomb”, to both of which he was a major contributor; he was no one’s peer, and was widely known as the man who was never bested in speed and accuracy of thought except by ruse. When the war was over and Hiroshima lay in ruins, he turned his talents to work on the newly emergent digital computer, recognizing instantly the latent potential of this still ungainly machine. He adopted whole heartedly from W. McCulloch and W. Pitts the language and concepts of the nervous system as a digital biological machine, and he used these metaphors liberally to guide his thinking in adapting the digital devices to exploit Booleam algebra and the “Theory of Games”. He was a master politician of science and a uniquely effective salesman for the utility of “Gamesmanship” in human affairs ranging from “Real-politik” to corporate business and the operation of railroads, all done best by the computer. His greatest accomplishment was in devising a method for encoding in symbols the sets of instructions for operations on data; thereby with the invention of programming he created the first truly universal automaton. Programmers still express ambivalence about the immense utility of his artifice when they complain about the strait-jacket imposed by the “von Neumann heuristic”.


Quantum Mechanic Programming Language Major Contributor Political Power Primary Language 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. J Neumann von (1958) The computer and the brain. Yale Univ Press, New HavenGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. J. Freeman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Physiology-AnatomyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

Personalised recommendations