Kemeny, who died in 1992, was a lifelong student and educator, working with some of the most renowned scientists in history. He began his undergraduate career at Princeton University, but took a year off to work on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico, with Richard Feynman and John von Neumann. Later, as a doctoral student at Princeton, he served as Albert Einstein’s mathematical assistant. Upon graduation, he was offered a full-time teaching position at Princeton, but instead took a job in the mathematics department at Dartmouth College. He served as Dartmouth’s president between 1970 and 1981, then returned to teaching full time.
Kemeny worked with Tom Kurtz to create BASIC as a way to make computer programming accessible to everyone. He subsequently became known outside of the mathematical world for his role on President Jimmy Carter’s task force - later named the Kemeny Commission - that investigated the Three Mile Island nuclear explosion.