John Kemény

(b. 5/31/1926, Budapest – d. 12/26/1992, Hanover, New Hampshire)

Kemény had an impressive education and intellectual development in Hungary, but in 1940, to escape the Nazi tide, his family emigrated to New York City. Kemeny entered high school knowing virtually no English. He graduated three years later, first in his class and accepted at Princeton University to study mathematics. However, at the age of 17 he was enlisted and sent to be a mathematician on the Manhattan Project. After the war, he resumed his studies and received his PhD in mathematics while being a research assistant to Einstein. In 1964 he co-developed Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. BASIC is often considered the beginner’s bible in computing. In 1970 he became the President of Dartmouth College under the condition that he be allowed to continue teaching philosophy and mathematics. He was also the co-developer of one of the first multi-user time-sharing computer systems: Dartmouth Time Sharing System. It allowed multiple users short spurts of access to the central computer from remote terminals in such a way that each user enjoyed the illusion that he was the sole user. With his inventions he promoted the “revolutionary” concept of making computers as freely available to college students as library books.

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