Guide to the Papers of John G. Kemeny, 1942 - 1992Manuscript MS-988

Biography

John George Kemeny was born May 26, 1926 in Budapest, Hungary. He attended primary school there until his family immigrated to the United States in 1940, settling in New York City. After excelling at George Washington High School, Kemeny attended Princeton University, where he studied philosophy and mathematics. His undergraduate years were interrupted with a year spent in Los Alamos, New Mexico working on the Manhattan Project. He earned a B.A. from Princeton in 1947 and a Ph.D. in mathematics from there in 1949. As a graduate student, Kemeny worked as Albert Einstein's mathematical assistant. He taught courses in mathematics at Princeton for several years after earning his doctorate.In 1953, Kemeny was appointed to the mathematics department at Dartmouth College. Just two years later he became chairman of the department, a post he held until 1967. Kemeny is credited with co-inventing the BASIC programming language with Thomas Kurtz in 1964, as well as one of the first time-sharing systems, the Dartmouth Time-Sharing System (DTSS). Kemeny served as the 13th president of Dartmouth College from 1970 to 1981. During all of his years as president he continued to teach undergraduate classes and published a wide variety of works relating to mathematics, education, and computing. He chaired the presidential commission that investigated the nuclear accident that occurred at Three Mile Island in 1979. He returned to full-time teaching in 1982, after stepping down as president of Dartmouth. He died December 26, 1992.

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