John Forbes Nash, Jr.

John Forbes Nash, Jr.
Specialty Math, economics
Born June 13, 1928
Nationality American

Born on June 13, 1928, in Bluefield, West Virginia, John Forbes Nash, Jr. is an internationally recognized, highly-appreciated and highly influential mathematician who has brought outstanding contributions in differential geometry, partial differential equations, and game theory.

His remarkable work is currently applied in diverse fields such as artificial intelligence, market economics, computer science and in evolutionary biology. In addition to mathematics, his research interests also include gravitation, cosmology, and logic. As of 2012, the famous mathematician and faculty member of the Department of Mathematics at Princeton University is also a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.

Nash’s Early Years

The only son of former school teacher Margaret Virginia Martin and electrical engineer John Forbes Nash, Sr., John Jr. was an intellectually precocious child with a special affinity for mathematics. His parents encouraged and supported him in his academic endeavors to pursue a professional career in this key science.

The University Years

After earning his BS and Master degrees in mathematics at Carnegie Institute of Technology (present-day Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1948, he received a full scholarship for a doctorate in mathematics from the elite Princeton University.

The eccentric student rarely attended classes, fearing a loss of originality. Keen on making a name for himself, Nash Jr. was constantly seeking problems that had previously defeated the minds of other mathematicians.

Recognized by his colleagues as both brilliant and non-conformist to the point of seeming odd, Nash began working on an original and simple idea that challenged the classical thinking in game theory; he proved that in every game there is a best strategy for each player given the strategies chosen by other players and he named this crucial concept “the equilibrium point.”

Career Highlights and Personal Life

John Forbes Nash, Jr.In 1951 he moved to Boston to join the faculty of MIT; students referred to him as the “kid professor,” but the other members of the faculty did not appreciate his egocentricity. He kept a previous affair with nurse Eleanor Stier and the birth of his son, John Stier, secret.

He met his first wife, Alicia Lopez-Harrison de Larde (one of his students who majored in physics at MIT), while teaching at this elite institution. They married in 1957 in a small ceremony in Washington D.C. and in 1959, his promising career was cut short at the age of 30 when he decided to resign from MIT and go to Europe, where he wandered for nine months. The couple divorced in 1963, but remarried in 2001. They have one son, John Charles Martin Nash, born in 1959.

Nash was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, in 1959, following several delusional episodes he had experienced and his treatment consisted of psychoanalysis.

Contributions to Mathematics

Nash’s 1950 doctoratal dissertation entitled Non-Cooperative Games, written under the supervision of Alan W. Tucker, contains a pivotal and ground-breaking concept known as the “Nash equilibrium.”

Nash’s most significant contribution to real algebraic geometry contains the famous Nash embedding theorem, which dazzled the world of mathematics from the very beginning. This global theorem proves that any Riemannian manifold can be isometrically embedded into a Euclidean space.

The visionary mathematical genius was also a pioneer in modern cryptography, as the National Security Agency found out in 2011 by declassifying his letters written in the 1950s. John Forbes Nash, Jr. also contributed to the development of singularity theory, fluid dynamics and parabolic partial differential equations. His name is widely associated with Princeton University and he received several honorary degrees from other universities.

Awards and Recognition

Nash’s fame and popularity increased with the release of the critically-acclaimed 2001 biographical drama A Beautiful Mind starring Russell Crowe and directed by Ron Howard. The famous film based on the life of the famed math genius was awarded four Academy Awards including Best Picture, yet it was criticized for inaccurate representations of some parts of Nash’s personal life.

In 1994, John Forbes Nash, Jr. became the co-recipient of the prestigious Nobel Prize in Economics for his early yet pivotal work (the “Nash equilibrium”) in modern economy theory.

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