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Nobel laureates, scholars discuss computation in the future of their fields

Brown University

PROVIDENCE, RI (Brown University) -- John von Neumann was without doubt one of the 20th Century's greatest minds. He is considered to be one of the founders of digital computing, pioneered game theory as a model of decision-making, and made critical contributions in the fields of physics, applied mathematics, and engineering.

Next week, renowned scholars including three Nobel laureates and a Turing Prize winner will give lectures at Brown in economics, physics, computer science, and brain science. Each speaker will reflect on what the future may hold in his or her discipline, while emphasizing von Neumann's vision of "computation as a scientific lens." Fourteen von Neumann lectures will be given over four days, May 12-15. Each day's session will include a "sweat box session," an intensive question-and-answer forum with some of the day's speakers.

The full schedule of 14 lectures and information about the speakers is available at

"Von Neumann was dedicated to the idea that we should tackle the hardest problems, working in symbiosis on the most abstract and most practical aspects of the problem in an intra-math, inter-sciences, cross-cultures interdisciplinary approach. " said Sorin Istrail, Julie Nguyen Brown Professor of Computational and Mathematical Sciences. "Von Neumann's seminal research is organically aligned with Brown's research mission across departments, inspiring us as we focus on the next generation of research problems."

Speakers will include:

  • Kenneth Arrow, winner of the 1972 Nobel Prize in Economics

  • Leon Cooper, Brown professor and winner of the 1972 Nobel Prize in Physics

  • Freeman Dyson, physicist and mathematician, reflecting on his experience as a colleague of von Neumann's at the Institute for Advanced Study.

  • Leslie Valiant, winner of the 2010 ACM Turing Award

  • Frank Wilczek, winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics

The symposium was organized by Brown professors Leon Cooper (physics), Stuart Geman (applied mathematics), Sorin Istrail (computer science), and Roberto Serrano (economics). Each considers von Neumann a hero, and has tried to incorporate his vision into research and teaching. This is the second von Neumann symposium to be held at Brown. The prior event, the kick-off the John von Neumann Distinguished Lecture Series at Brown, was held in 2010.

The event is cosponsored by Brown's Office of the President, Office of the Provost, Office of the Vice-President of Research, Office of Brown's 250th Anniversary, Department of Computer Science, Department of Economics, Department of Neuroscience, Department of Physics, Center for Computational Biology and Department of Biostatistics and hosted by the Department of Computer Science.


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