
John Kemeny was born on May 31, 1926, to a Jewish family in Budapest. His native country produced top mathematicians (on learning he was Hungarian, a Princeton professor is said to have exclaimed, "Not another one!") and he was a prodigy. In 1940 the family, alarmed by the Nazis then sweeping eastward from Germany, immigrated to New York City. Kemeny was 13 and spoke no English. Three years later, he matriculated at Princeton, where he studied mathematics and philosophy. He graduated in 1947, having taken a year off to work with the scientists who were developing the first atomic bomb in Los Alamos, New Mexico. His job there was "to be a 'computer,'" feeding punchcards by hand into IBM calculating machines to solve differential equations, and proofing the printouts for "catastrophes." 


