John Forbes Nash, Jr. was born on 13 June, 1928. John Nash is an American mathematician and economist who works in game theory, differential geometry, and partial differential equations, serving as a Senior Research Mathematician at Princeton University. John Nash shared the 1994 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with game theorists Reinhard Selten and John Harsanyi.
John Nash is also the subject of the Hollywood movie, A Beautiful Mind, which was nominated for 8 Oscars (winning 4), and was based on the biography of the same name about him, his mathematical genius and his struggle with schizophrenia.
John Nash was born and raised in Bluefield, West Virginia. John Nash was born to electrical engineer John Forbes Nash and his wife Margaret Virginia Martin, an English and Latin teacher. On 16 November, 1930 his sister Martha Nash was born. John Nash was an avid reader of Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia, Life Magazine, and Time Magazine. Later he had a job at the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.
At the age of 12, he carried out scientific experiments in his room. At a young age, he already preferred to work alone. John Nash returned the social rejection of his classmates with practical jokes and intellectual superiority, believing their dances and sports to be a distraction from his experiments and studies.
Martha, his younger sister, wrote about him that “Johnny was always different. [My parents] knew he was different. And they knew he was bright. John Nash always wanted to do things his way. Mother insisted I do things for him, that I include him in my friendships… but I wasn’t too keen on showing off my somewhat odd brother.”
In his autobiography, John Nash notes that it was E.T. Bell’s book, Men of Mathematics—in particular, the essay on Fermat—that first sparked his interest in mathematics. John Nash attended classes at Bluefield College while still in high school at Bluefield High School. John Nash later attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on a Westinghouse scholarship, where he studied 1st chemical engineering and later chemistry before switching to mathematics. John Nash received both his bachelor’s degree and his master’s degree in 1948 while at the Carnegie Institute.
John Nash also created 2 popular games: Hex in 1947 (independently created 1st in 1942 by Piet Hein), and So Long Sucker in 1950 with M. Hausner and Lloyd S. Shapley.
After graduation, John Nash took a summer job in White Oak, Maryland, working on a Navy research project being run by Clifford Truesdell.
In 1948, while applying to Princeton’s mathematics department, John Nash’s advisor and former Carnegie Tech professor, R.J. Duffin, wrote a letter of recommendation consisting of a single sentence: “This man is a genius.” Though accepted by Harvard University, which had been his first choice because of what he perceived to be the institution’s greater prestige and superior mathematics faculty, he was aggressively pursued by then chairman of the mathematics department at Princeton University, Solomon Lefschetz, whose offer of the John S. Kennedy fellowship was enough to convince him that Harvard valued him less. Thus, from White Oak he went to Princeton University, where he worked on his equilibrium theory (Nash equilibrium). John Nash earned a doctorate in 1950 with a dissertation on non-cooperative games. The thesis, which was written under the supervision of Albert W. Tucker, contained the definition and properties of what would later be called the “Nash Equilibrium”.
These studies led to 3 articles:
“Equilibrium Points in N-person Games”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 36 (1950), 48–49. MR0031701
“The Bargaining Problem”, Econometrica 18 (1950), 155–162. MR0035977
“Two-person Cooperative Games”, Econometrica 21 (1953), 128–140. MR0053471
Nash also did important work in the area of algebraic geometry:
“Real algebraic manifolds”, Annals of Mathematics 56 (1952), 405–421. MR0050928.
John Nash’s most famous work in pure mathematics was the Nash embedding theorem, which showed that any abstract Riemannian manifold can be isometrically realised as a submanifold of Euclidean space. John Nash also made contributions to the theory of nonlinear parabolic partial differential equations.
In 1951, John Nash went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a C. L. E. Moore Instructor in the mathematics faculty. There, he met Alicia López-Harrison de Lardé (born 1 January, 1933), a physics student from El Salvador, whom he married in February 1957. Alicia admitted John Nash to a mental hospital in 1959 for schizophrenia; their son, John Charles Martin Nash, was born soon afterwards, but remained nameless for a year because his mother felt that her husband should have a say in the name.
John Nash and Lopez-Harrison de Lardé divorced in 1963, but reunited in 1970, in a nonromantic relationship that resembled that of 2 unrelated housemates. Alicia referred to him as her “boarder” and said they lived “like two distantly related individuals under one roof,” according to Sylvia Nasar’s 1998 biography of John Nash, A Beautiful Mind. The couple renewed their relationship after John Nash won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1994. They remarried 1 June, 2001.
John Nash had another son, John David born on 19 June, 1953, with Eleanor Stier, but allegedly had little to do with the child or his mother. However, in a CBS 60 Minutes interview aired in March 2002, the mathematician denied that his relationship with his son from a previous relationship was “non-existent”, that in fact he and John Stier are in contact and that Eleanor Stier even received a share of the film (A Beautiful Mind) royalties.
John Nash began to show signs of schizophrenia in 1958. John Nash began to show signs of extreme paranoia and his wife later described his behavior as becoming increasingly erratic, stating that he began speaking of characters who were putting him in danger. John Nash was admitted into the McLean Hospital, April–May 1959, where he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and mild clinical depression. After a problematic stay in Paris and Geneva, John Nash returned to Princeton in 1960. John Nash was in and out of mental hospitals until 1970, being given insulin shock therapy and antipsychotic medications, usually as a result of being involuntarily committed.
Although prescribed antipsychotic medication, John Nash has said he never really took it. On some occasions he was forced to, but after 1970 he was never committed to hospital again and never took antipsychotic medication again. The film “A Beautiful Mind” fabricated him later taking the then new atypical antipsychotics, which John Nash attributes to the screenwriter (whose mother, he notes, was a psychiatrist)not wanting to incite people to stop taking their medication. Others, however, have questioned whether the fabrication obscured a key question as to whether recovery from problems like John Nash’s can actually be hindered by such drugs and John Nash has said they are over-rated and the adverse effects are not given enough consideration. According to his biographer Nasar, John Nash recovered gradually with the passage of time. Encouraged by his then former wife, Alicia, John Nash worked in a communitarian setting where his eccentricities were accepted. Alicia also said that for John Nash “it’s just a question of living a quiet life”.
John Nash dates the start of what he terms “mental disturbances” to the early months of 1959 when his wife was pregnant. John Nash has described a process of change “from scientific rationality of thinking into the delusional thinking characteristic of persons who are psychiatrically diagnosed as “schizophrenic” or “paranoid schizophrenic” including seeing himself as a messenger or having a special function in some way, and with supporters and opponents and hidden schemers, and a feeling of being persecuted, and looking for signs representing divine revelation. John Nash has suggested his delusional thinking was related to his unhappiness,and his striving to feel important and be recognised, and to his characteristic way of thinking such that “I wouldn’t have had good scientific ideas if I had thought more normally.” John Nash has said that “If I felt completely pressureless I don’t think I would have gone in this pattern”. John Nash does not see a categorical distinction between terms such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. John Nash reports that he did not hear voices at first, only some years later around 1964, until later engaging in a process of rejecting them. John Nash reports that he was always taken to hospital against his will, and only temporarily renounced his “dream-like delusional hypotheses” after being in hospital long enough to decide to superficially conform and behave normally or experience “enforced rationality”. Only gradually on his own did he “intellectually reject” some of the “delusionally influenced” and “politically-oriented” thinking as a waste of effort. However, by 1995 he felt that although “thinking rationally again in the style that is characteristic of scientists”, it was not entirely a matter of joy as he felt more limited.
In Princeton campus legend, John Nash became “The Phantom of Fine Hall” (Fine Hall is Princeton’s mathematics center), a shadowy figure who would scribble arcane equations on blackboards in the middle of the night. The legend appears in a work of fiction based on Princeton life, The Mind-Body Problem, by Rebecca Goldstein.
In 1978, John Nash was awarded the John von Neumann Theory Prize for his discovery of non-cooperative equilibria, now called Nash equilibria. John Nash won the Leroy P. Steele Prize in 1999.
In 1994, he received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (along with 2 others), as a result of his game theory work as a Princeton graduate student. In the late 1980s, John Nash had begun to use electronic mail to gradually link with working mathematicians who realised that he was “the” John Nash and that his new work had value. They formed part of the nucleus of a group that contacted the Bank of Sweden’s Nobel award committee, and were able to vouch for John Nash’s mental health ability to receive the award in recognition of his early work.
John Nash’s recent work involves ventures in advanced game theory, including partial agency, that show that, as in his early career, he prefers to select his own path and problems. Between 1945 and 1996, he published 23 scientific studies.
John Nash has suggested hypotheses on mental disorder. John Nash has compared not thinking in an acceptable manner, or being “insane” and not fitting into a usual social function, to being “on strike” from an economic point of view. John Nash has advanced evolutionary psychology views about the value of human diversity and the potential benefits of apparently non-standard behaviours or roles.
John Nash has also developed work on the role of money in society. In the context that people can be so controlled and motivated by money that they may not be able to reason rationally about it, he has criticized interest groups that promote quasi-doctrines based on Keynesian economics that permit manipulative short-term inflation and debt tactics that ultimately undermine currencies. John Nash has suggested a global “industrial consumption price index” system that would support the development of more “ideal money” that people could trust, rather than more unstable “bad money”. John Nash notes that some of his thinking parallels economist and political philosopher Friedrich Hayek’s thinking regarding money and a nontypical viewpoint of the function of the authorities.
In 2002 aspects of John Nash’s personal life were brought to international attention when “mudslinging” ensued over screenwriter Akiva Goldsman’s semifictional interpretation of Sylvia Nasar’s biography of John Nash’s life in A Beautiful Mind in relation to the film of the same name. The movie A Beautiful Mind, nominated for 8Oscars,credits Goldsman under “written by” rather than “screenplay by” from the Writer’s Guild as Goldsman’s “omissions are glaring and peculiar, specifically John Nash’s homosexual experiences, his extramarital sexual activities, his racial attitudes and anti-Semitic remarks.” John Nash later claimed any anti-Semitic remarks must have been made while he was delirious.
In the mid-1950s John Nash was arrested in a Santa Monica restroom on a morals charge related to a homosexual encounter and “subsequently lost his post at the RAND Corporation along with his security clearance.” According to Nasar, “After this traumatic series of career-threatening events, he decided to marry.”
Nasar stated about the film that the filmmakers had “invented a narrative that, while far from a literal telling, is true to the spirit of John Nash’s story.” Others suggested that the material was “conveniently left out of the movie in order to make John Nash more sympathetic,” possibly in an effort to more fully focus on the “debilitating longevity” of living with paranoid-schizophrenia on a day-to-day basis.
New York Times critic A. O. Scott pointed to a different perspective. Scott wrote of the Oscar scandal and the artistic choices made in the omissions as well as choices, such as casting actors, that have to be made that “the cold war in A Beautiful Mind in which the paranoia and uncertainty of McCarthy-era academic life is reduced to spy-movie clichés” smoothed over “and made palatable and familiar” a “difficult passage in American history.” Thus the cold war’s effects on John Nash’s life and career were left unexplored. Akiva Goldsman won the Oscar for “Best Adapted Screenplay”.
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