The Martian's Daughter: A Memoir

The Martian's Daughter: A Memoir

Language: English

Pages: 344

ISBN: 0472118420

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


One of the five Hungarian scientific geniuses dubbed "the Martians" by their colleagues, John von Neumann is often hailed as the greatest mathematician of the twentieth century and even as the greatest scientist after Einstein. He was a key figure in the Manhattan Project; the inventor of game theory; the pioneer developer of the modern stored-program electronic computer; and an adviser to the top echelons of the American military establishment. In The Martian's Daughter, Marina von Neumann Whitman reveals intimate details about the famed scientist and explores how the cosmopolitan environment in which she was immersed, the demanding expectations of her parents, and her own struggles to emerge from the shadow of a larger-than-life parent shaped her life and work.

Unfortunately, von Neumann did not live to see his daughter rise to become the first or highest-ranking woman in a variety of arenas. Whitman became a noted academic during the 1960s and '70s, casting her teaching and writing in the framework of globalization before the word had been invented; became the first woman ever to serve on the President's Council of Economic Advisers and participated actively in U.S. efforts to reshape the international monetary and financial system during the early 1970s; pioneered the role of women on the boards of leading multinational corporations; and became the highest-ranking female executive in the American auto industry in the 1980s. In her memoir, Whitman quotes from personal letters from her father and describes her interactions with such figures as Roger Smith of GM and President Nixon. She also details the difficulties she encountered as an early entrant into a world dominated by men and how she overcame the obstacles to, in her words, "have it all."

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as a role model, a symbol of what a woman can achieve in different arenas. But in terms of substantively making a difference, nudging the world, or at least some part of it, in the direction I wanted it to move, I'm not completely satisfied. Many of the barriers were external, set up by a society that was beginning to open new doors to women but wasn't yet ready to accord full weight to their ideas or make the changes they were trying to effect. Some of the barriers were inside me—the desire to

Princeton when it was a traditional WASP institution that reflected its southern origins—most of the town's black residents were the descendants of slaves that undergraduates had brought to college with them before the Civil War. That ambience was reflected in the stir created when, the same year we arrived, the English Department hired Princeton's first black faculty member. Some of the senior faculty members, with private sources of wealth, owned elegant homes, while others rented one of the

committed to righting. I came to recognize that being the mother of two small children (Viola Liuzzo had five), preoccupied with work and family, was not an adequate excuse. It was years before I fully acknowledged how much the political and cultural changes stimulated by the women's movement had spurred my own professional advancement. And throughout my life I have exerted pressures for reform by working inside established institutions rather than protesting against their failings from the

that had lain buried under the frenzy of day-to-day activity. It was spelled out in a comment by Professor Carl Christ, one of several well-known economists who had written critical reviews of the CEA's 1973 Economic Report of the President in the American Economic Review: “[T]he report is inherently ‘a somewhat schizoid document.’ It is intended to serve two purposes that are not entirely compatible—first to function as an apology for or celebration of the President's economic program, and

the shades of gray that I see as a true reflection of reality. Meanwhile, I had been keeping my finger in Washington's policy pie by serving as an adviser to several offices and agencies of government on issues related to trade, the US balance of payments, and the international monetary system. We had just come home from our trip to Europe in the summer of 1974 when I was invited as one of twenty-eight “leading economists” to participate in a Summit Conference on Inflation called by President

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