The Duties of John von Neumann’s Assistant in the 1930s

"The job entailed such onerous duties that only someone with an iron constitution could survive. My constitution, it so happened, was not made by iron. It was made of reeds and bamboo sticks"

The year is 1933. A 26 year-old former graduate student at Columbia University, Edgar R. Lorch (1907–1990) has just completed his Ph.D. in mathematics and is, in his own words “by some miracle” awarded a National Research Council Fellowship for a year of postdoctoral studies at Harvard University. Worried that the ongoing Great Depression will leave him…

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