2007 marks the 75th anniversary of the publication of von Neumann’s classic text, shown above in the original German and the subsequent English versions.

Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics –Credit: John von Neumann; published by Princeton University Press

Mathematische Grundlagen der Quantenmechanik – Credit:  John von Neumann; published by Springer Publishing



DEEP BEAUTY: Mathematical Innovation and the Search for an Underlying Intelligibility of the Quantum World celebrates the life and legacy of the scientific and mathematical polymath John Von Neumann 50 years after his death and 75 years following the publication of his renowned, path-breaking classic text, Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics.

The program, supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, consists of (1) a two-day symposium sponsored by the Department of Philosophy at Princeton University to be held in Princeton October 3–4, 2007 and (2) a subsequent research volume to be published by a major academic press. The symposium will be chaired by Hans Halvorson of Princeton’s Philosophy Department; he will also subsequently serve as volume editor.

As one of the most creative minds of the 20th century, von Neumann developed a new basis of mathematical insight that paved the way for many further advancements in the field of quantum mechanics. He was also a pioneering influence on the development of one of the most momentous technologies in the history of the world: computer science. In addition, von Neumann left an extraordinary legacy of excellence that enhanced the culture of math and science teaching for children and young adults in the city of Budapest, Hungary, where he was educated in his youth.

During and after World War II, von Neumann was a much sought-after technical advisor in the United States. He served as a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee at the Ballistic Research Laboratories, the Navy Bureau of Ordinance, and the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project. He was a consultant to the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory and was appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to the Atomic Energy Commission. Among his honors were the Albert Einstein Commemorative Award, the Enrico Fermi Award, and the Medal of Freedom.

Von Neumann’s astonishing life work and influence on mathematics and computer science made him one of the outstanding figures of Princeton’s scientific culture. His involvement in the development of game theory and of three “world-shaking” technologies—the A & H bombs and the computer—led to important historical discussions on issues such as the massive impact and power of creative genius operating within the scientific enterprise. His breakthrough thinking and that of Princeton’s other famous émigré geniuses—Einstein, Gödel, Wigner, and others like them—will continue to generate new ideas and insights that in turn will generate new life-changing technologies. The impact of their scientific genius will continue to transform the human condition on a massive global scale. 

The purpose of this program is to better understand the nature of quantum mechanics since von Neumann and thereby probe further into the nature of the universe. Exploring ways to advance mathematical insight into the deep nature of quantum reality may help determine whether quantum mechanics can become more comprehensible in the way it models the ordered structure of nature. A dozen symposium participants from multidisciplinary fields—philosophy, history and philosophy of science, mathematics, logic, quantum computing and information, and various branches of physics—will aim to cultivate cross-fertilization and creative breakthroughs in the mathematical and philosophical foundations of quantum theory. Questions asking how mathematical advances might foster progress in answering “big philosophical questions” about causality, free will, and emergence, among other topics, may be explored.

Short papers summarizing the presentations will be distributed among the speakers before the symposium to encourage informed discussion during the meeting. Following the symposium, the speakers will be invited to revise and expand their short papers into full-length chapters for the related research volume, which will be published by a major academic press in 2009 and edited by Hans Halvorson. A few select others will be invited to contribute to the book. The target audience consists of scholars in philosophy, history and philosophy of science, mathematics, logic, quantum computing and information, various branches of physics, and graduate students and post-doctoral students in these areas, as well as highly educated and others interested in cross-disciplinary education and a furthering of our understanding of the nature of quantum mechanics—and of the universe.