This paper is mostly a history of the early years of nonlinear and computational physics and mathematics. I trace how the counterintuitive result of near-recurrence to an initial condition in the first scientific digital computer simulation led to the discovery of the soliton in a later computer simulation. The 1955 report by Fermi, Pasta, and Ulam (FPU) described their simulation of a one-dimensional nonlinear lattice which did not show energy equipartition. The 1965 paper by Zabusky and Kruskalshowed that the Korteweg–de Vries (KdV) nonlinear partial differential equation, a long wavelength model of the α-lattice (or cubic nonlinearity), derived by Kruskal, gave quantitatively the same results obtained by FPU. In 1967, Zabusky and Deem showed that a localized short wavelength initial excitation (then called an “optical” and now a “zone-boundary mode” excitation ) of the α-lattice revealed “n-curve” coherent states. If the initial amplitude was sufficiently large energy equipartition followed in a short time. The work of Kruskal and Miura (KM), Gardner and Greene (GG), and myself led to the appreciation of the infinity of denumerable invariants (conservation laws) for Hamiltonian systems and to a procedure by GGKM in 1967 for solving KdV exactly. The nonlinear science field exponentiated in diversity of linkages (as described in Appendix A). Included were pure and applied mathematics and all branches of basic and applied physics, including the first nonhydrodynamic application to optical solitons, as described in a brief essay (Appendix B) by Hasegawa. The growth was also manifest in the number of meetings held and institutes founded, as described briefly in Appendix D. Physicists and mathematicians in Japan, USA, and USSR (in the latter two, people associated with plasma physics) contributed to the diversification of the nonlinear paradigm which continues worldwide to the present. The last part of the paper (and Appendix C) discuss visiometrics: the visualization and quantification of simulation data, e.g., projection to lower dimensions, to facilitate understanding of nonlinear phenomena for modeling and prediction (or design). Finally, I present some recent developments that are linked to my early work by: Dritschel (vortex dynamics via contour dynamics/surgery in two and three dimensions); Friedland (pattern formation by synchronization in Hamiltonian nonlinear wave, vortex, plasma, systems, etc.); and the author (“n-curve” states and energy equipartition in a FPU lattice).