Episode 136

John von Neumann invented Game Theory, redefined ordinal numbers, contributed mightily to quantum mechanics, and developed the architecture which enables modern computing. He also designed the trigger mechanism which detonated the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and he was key in developing “Mutually Assured Destruction” as a means of balancing the world order as the nuclear age dawned. He possessed an intellect rivaled by only a handful of other persons, and he was, without doubt, one of the most important individuals of 20th century. He also was agnostic for the majority of his life, though he was baptized Catholic at 30 years old in order to marry his Catholic fiancee. But when suddenly facing his own death at just 53 years old, he had to face the questions of the afterlife and the existence of God. Ever the gamer, Pascal’s Wager gave him the argument that convinced him to return to the Catholicism of his first wife, and then significant conversations with a learned Benedictine priest helped him to understand the faith and desire the sacraments. He died with the Last Rites in January 1957.

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