John Von Neumann: The Man From The Future

Jennifer Szalai at the New York Times:

When von Neumann was alive, before the full import of his influence could be gauged, his brilliance marked him not as a time traveler but as an alien — one of the so-called Martians, the nickname for the Hungarian-Jewish emigrés, including Edward Teller, who worked on the secret atom bomb project at Los Alamos. Naturally, the intellectually omnivorous von Neumann came up with his own theories about the “Hungarian phenomenon” (the shorthand term for the scientific accomplishments of von Neumann and his countrymen), deciding that it had something to do with the Austro-Hungarian mixture of liberalism and feudalism that allowed Jews some avenues for success while keeping them away from the true levers of power. This provoked “a feeling of extreme insecurity,” von Neumann said, making him and his fellow Martians believe that they needed “to produce the unusual or face extinction.”

more here.