‘Martian’s Daughter’ Marina Whitman featured on BookTV

by Phillip Witteveen on May 30, 2013

Marina Von Neumann Whitman was interviewed on C-SPAN’s Book TV about her memoir, The Martian’s Daughter. Whitman is the daughter of John von Neumann, one of the greatest minds of the 20th century, and part of a group of geniuses dubbed “the Martians” who made major contributions to mathematics and physics.

Whitman is an accomplished figure in her own right, a former professor at our own University of Michigan and the first or highest-ranking woman of her era in a number of fields including business, government, and academia. On BookTV, Whitman related her life experiences as someone who grew up among such great intellectuals and became a renaissance woman herself.

“I think Einstein used to come to dinner,” Whitman said of just one of the prominent thinkers to visit her family, “but by the time I became conscious, his wife had died and he had become something of a recluse. I only saw him when I went to the 4 o’clock teas that the Institute of Advanced Study had every day.”

Going on to Harvard, Whitman joked that, “I’m sure if I’d realized how much my father had contributed to the field I was going into, I would have chosen a different field. By the time I found out, it was too late.”

Whitman inherited the weight of being the great man’s only child.

“There were two aspects of his legacy,” Whitman said of her famous father. “One was his work, and he worried a great deal—whether 100 years after his death, anyone would be paying attention. And the other was me.”

You can listen to the full interview here. The Martian’s Daughter is now available in paperback.

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