Dear Editor,

I am writing not to address an issue with AJP itself, but to point out a common misconception that has made its way into thousands of peer-reviewed publications, with the hope that this note will help prevent its propagation. The misconception involves the confusion of John von Neumann and Carl Neumann as the namesake of a type of boundary condition. A quick search on Google Scholar shows there are currently 1,170 publications that use “von Neumann boundary conditions,” while the false-von rate on the Harvard/NASA ADS is approximately 8%.

The Neumann boundary conditions on the first derivative of a function (without von) are named after Carl Neumann (1832–1925), a German mathematician who worked on infinite series and developed an early model of electromagnetism. John von Neumann (1903–1957) was a Hungarian mathematician and polymath who emigrated to the United States and is known for his work on the theory of computation, several areas of physics, and the Manhattan project. While the work of von Neumann is better-known to physicists than that of Neumann, it is Neumann for whom the boundary conditions are named. While I cannot find any sources for or against the following claim, it is unlikely that the two are blood relatives.

There are similar but less common confusions in the literature between Hendrik Lorentz, best known for his relativistic factor, and Edward Lorenz, known for his contributions to chaos theory. Authors may take care to avoid misattributed references to “Lorenz contraction” or the “Lorentz attractor.”

As I mentioned above, my goal in writing this is not to poke fun at authors who have made this error, but to educate future authors, referees, and editors who may be reading this and prevent the misconception from spreading further.