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  • Published: 1 February 2022
  • ISBN: 9780241398852
  • Imprint: Allen Lane
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 368
  • RRP: $45.00

The Man from the Future

The Visionary Life of John von Neumann




An exhilarating new biography of John von Neumann: the lost genius who invented our world

The smartphones in our pockets and computers like brains. The vagaries of game theory and evolutionary biology. Nanotechnology and nuclear weapons. All bear the fingerprints of one remarkable 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. His colleagues believed he had the fastest brain on the planet - bar none. He was instrumental in the Manhattan Project and helped formulate the bedrock of Cold War geopolitics and modern economic theory. He created the first ever programmable digital computer. He prophesied the potential of nanotechnology and, from his deathbed, 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 so many different fields of science, sparking revolutions wherever he went. Insightful and illuminating, The Man from the Future is a thrilling intellectual biography of the visionary thinker who shaped our century.

  • Published: 1 February 2022
  • ISBN: 9780241398852
  • Imprint: Allen Lane
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 368
  • RRP: $45.00

Praise for The Man from the Future

John von Neumann was one of the deepest and broadest thinkers of the 20th century - but also a delight to encounter. According to one admirer, listening to him was "mental champagne". Now we have a biography of the man about which you can say the same. 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

Highly enjoyable. Von Neumann's genius lay in synthesising the theoretical knowledge of the time: from quantum and nuclear physics to game theory and computing. Ananyo Bhattacharya's great insight, which he reveals with engaging clarity, is that von Neumann was also creating a blueprint for how technology would change our world over the next sixty years

David Sumpter, author of The Ten Equations that Rule the World

John von Neumann was the genius's genius, the man who shone in whatever topic in mathematics or physics he turned his mind towards. Despite his central contributions to the theory of computation, economics, logic, complexity, and quantum physics, somehow he 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. Johnny did indeed imagine the first draft of the future, and we are now living it

Philip Ball, author of Beyond Weird

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 mythologising. As a scientist, you come across von Neumann's name frequently - but I hadn't appreciated quite how fundamental an influence he'd had on so many fields until I read this book

Andrew Steele, author of Ageless

More than just a biography, The Man from the Future elucidates the breath-taking scientific progress in the mid-20th century, skilfully woven together in the story of one man, John von Neumann

Sabine Hossenfelder, author of Lost in Math

A fascinating read about a fascinating man. John von Neumann's contributions range from breakthroughs in the most abstract areas of mathematics to revolutionizing economics and other social sciences as a co-inventor of game theory. Before computer science departments were created and before the term AI was coined von Neumann did foundational work on AI. This book is a great read for anybody who is interested in science or history of science

Michael Schwarz, chief economist, Microsoft

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

An ambitious account of a complex thinker who lived through extraordinary times. Ananyo Bhattacharya's biography of von Neumann is admirably thorough and accessible

Angela Saini, author of Inferior

An engaging and fascinating book that blends science and history. I loved it

Paul Davies, author of The Demon in the Machine

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. . . If you are interested in the development in the 20th century of science that impacts all our lives today, there can be no better place to seek information than this book. . . A fine tribute to von Neumann's genius and his contributions to science

John Gribbin, Literary Review

I loved The Man from the Future. An extremely impressive piece of science writing that deftly covers the twentieth century's revolutions in maths, physics, economics and computer science. Bravo!

Alex Bellos

Splendid . . . a whistle stop tour through von Neumann's restless mind

Manjit Kumar, Guardian

With great deftness, Bhattacharya gives John von Neumann his rightful place among such better-known giants as Albert Einstein or J Robert Oppenheimer. He tells the story tremendously well

David Bodanis, Financial Times

An agile, intelligent, intellectually enraptured account of von Neumann's life. Bhattacharya argues convincingly that von Neumann was a man in whose extraordinarily fertile head the pre-war world found a lifeboat. Five stars

Simon Ings, Sunday Telegraph

Good biographies of some of the greatest mathematical minds are rare. . . Rather like the books of Stephen Hawking or Carlo Rovelli, this book is rewarding on different levels. . . Mr Bhattacharya is a clear and authoritative guide

The Economist

It seems fair to claim there was no one like von Neumann. . . . Bhattacharya manages to cover his dazzling range of ideas clearly and compellingly

Jon Turney, Arts Desk

Brilliant. . . Apart from being one of the finest minds of the 20th century, von Neumann was also idiosyncratic and entertaining. Bhattacharya guides us through the ideas that built the modern world while making sense of the man behind them

Nick Smith, E&T

A splendid biography of one of the most brilliant, unpredictable and ultimately dangerous mathematicians of the 20th century

Financial Times, Best Books of the Year

A book I'll be reading over Christmas? The Man From the Future, Ananyo Bhattacharya's engaging new biography of a legendary polymath - John von Neumann was a unique figure in twentieth-century science and mathematics, laying the foundations for much that we now take for granted

Anil Seth, author of Being You

Rivetting . . . a sharp, expansive biography of John von Neumann, a titanic 20th-century scientist

Kirkus

Fascinating . . . Bhattacharya succeeds in arguing that von Neumann is under-appreciated, and that to understand him, we have to see him in the political and scientific movements of his time

The Critic

Bhattacharya's crystal-clear prose makes for a tour de force of enjoyable science writing. . . A marvelously bracing biography of the ideas of John von Neumann, ideas that continue to grow and flourish with a life of their own

Stephen Budiansky, Wall Street Journal

Vivid. . . The Man From the Future is devoted to exploring the ideas and technological inquiries von Neumann inspired

Jennifer Szalai, New York Times

Reacquainting modern readers with "the most famous scientist in America after Einstein," The Man from the Future examines the tremendous impact von Neumann had on various scientific disciplines. . . exceptional

Science

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