John von Neumann was a Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, and computer scientist. He made major contributions to a number of fields, including mathematics , physics , economics , computing , and statistics.

Generally regarded as the foremost mathematician of his time and said to be "the last representative of the great mathematicians" like Euler, Gauss, Poincaré or Hilbert, he was a pioneer of the application of operator theory to quantum mechanics, in the development of functional analysis, and a key figure in the development of game theory and the concepts of cellular automata, the universal constructor and the digital computer. He published over 150 papers in his life: about 60 in pure mathematics, 20 in physics, and 60 in applied mathematics, the remainder being on special mathematical subjects or non-mathematical ones. His last work, an unfinished manuscript written while in the hospital, was later published in book form as The Computer and the Brain.

His analysis of the structure of self-replication preceded the discovery of the structure of DNA. In a short list of facts about his life he submitted to the National Academy of Sciences, he stated, "The part of my work I consider most essential is that on quantum mechanics, which developed in Göttingen in 1926, and subsequently in Berlin in 1927–1929. Also, my work on various forms of operator theory, Berlin 1930 and Princeton 1935–1939; on the ergodic theorem, Princeton, 1931–1932."

During World War II he worked on the Manhattan Project, developing the mathematical models behind the explosive lenses used in the implosion-type nuclear weapon. After the war, he served on the General Advisory Committee of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, and later as one of its commissioners. He was a consultant to a number of organizations, including the United States Air Force, the Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory, the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Along with theoretical physicist Edward Teller, mathematician Stanislaw Ulam, and others, he worked out key steps in the nuclear physics involved in thermonuclear reactions and the hydrogen bomb.