There's a 1951 article by John von Neumann, Various techniques used in connection with random digits, which I would really like to read. It is widely cited, but I can't seem to find an actual copy of the paper, be it free or paying.

Is there a general strategy to find copies of relatively old papers like this one?

EDIT: I've searched quite a lot before posting this question and fond the following reference:

Journal of Research of the National Bureau of Standards, Appl. Math. Series (1951), 3, 36-38

Unfortunately, my library doesn't have it, and it is not in NIST's online archive (neither at http://www.nist.gov/nvl/journal-of-research-past-issues.cfm nor at http://nistdigitalarchives.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/nistjournalofresearchbyvolume/collection/p13011coll6)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Welcoming to the wonderful world of publishing. $\endgroup$ – Euler....IS_ALIVE Aug 25 '12 at 5:17
  • $\begingroup$ Do you know the name of the journal and the current owner of copyright? You should be able to get it from them. $\endgroup$ – Michael Chernick Aug 25 '12 at 5:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I wouldn't be surprised if only a small fraction of those citing it really have read the paper. $\endgroup$ – Raskolnikov Aug 25 '12 at 5:37
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Salut Clément, your local libraries may not have J. Res. NIST appl. math. ser but perhaps they have von Neumann's collected works? The other alternative is to talk to a librarian in the best library you have access to: they usually have a system for getting photocopies of journal articles even if they don't have the article themselves. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Towers Aug 25 '12 at 7:38
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ A quick search revealed that both libraries ORSAY-PARIS 11-Bib. Maths and PARIS 6-Inst. Henri Poincaré possess Collected works. Volume V, where the paper of your heart is reprinted. $\endgroup$ – Did Aug 25 '12 at 9:31

One of the citations gives the bibliographic info,

von Neumann J, Various Techniques Used in Connection with Random Digits, Notes by G E Forsythe, National Bureau of Standards Applied Math Series, 12 (1951) pp 36-38. Reprinted in von Neumann's Collected Works, 5 (1963), Pergamon Press pp 768-770.

That should be enough information for any librarian to find you a copy.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Who would have thought that bibliographic information exists to help people locate references... I, for once, am completely shocked by this fact and I am glad that I was sitting down when I was reading this answer. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Aug 25 '12 at 6:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks. However, NIST archives (nist.gov/nvl/journal-of-research-past-issues.cfm) do not seem to include volume 51, and the largest library of my city (Paris, France) doesn't have it. Perhaps I should have mentioned this. $\endgroup$ – Clément Aug 25 '12 at 7:05
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Clément: You can get it at the BnF: catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb332187664/PUBLIC $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Aug 25 '12 at 7:46
  • $\begingroup$ Brilliant, thanks Michael. If you'll post your comment as an answer I'll accept it; otherwise I'll mark this one as the accepted answer. How did you find it? Did you directly think of the BNF? $\endgroup$ – Clément Aug 25 '12 at 9:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Clément, just mark this one. $\endgroup$ – Michael Greinecker Aug 25 '12 at 10:43

I ran into a similar problem recently, and my solution was to email the NIST archives and request the article be scanned and emailed.

I received an email with a pdf version, and now it has been recently added to Richard Arratia's list of hard to find papers. https://dornsifecms.usc.edu/richard-arratia-usc/hard-to-find-papers-i-admire/


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.