John Forbes Nash, Jr.

John Forbes Nash, Jr.
Mathematician
Specialty Mathematics, Cryptography, Economics
Born June 13, 1928
Died May 23, 2015
Nationality American

John Forbes Nash, Jr. is an internationally recognized, highly-appreciated and highly influential mathematician who has made outstanding contributions to differential geometry, partial differential equations, and game theory. His work in Game Theory famously revolutionized economics in the 1970s.

Unfortunately, his success was challenged when he was diagnosed with paranoid Schizophrenia. Eventually he was able to overcome these challenges and returned to his work as a mathematician. The 2001 film, A Beautiful Mind, was based on his life and won many awards, including Best Picture at the Oscars. His life story is one filled with brilliance, unique challenges, and strength in overcoming them.

His remarkable work is currently applied in diverse fields such as artificial intelligence, market economics, computer science and in evolutionary biology.

Early Life & Education

Nash was born on June 13, 1928, in Bluefield, West Virginia. His father, John Forbes Nash, was an electrical engineer for the Appalachian Electric Power Company and his mother, Margaret Virginia Martin, worked as a school teacher prior to her marriage.

Nash often enjoyed reading the educational books that his parents and grandparents had in their respective houses. His parents supported his affinity towards learning and helped to supplement his education with additional tutoring.

Nash attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now called the Carnegie Mellon University) with the help of the George Westinghouse Scholarship. In 1948, at the young age of 19, Nash graduated with both a B.S. and M.S. in mathematics. Princeton University offered him the John S. Kennedy fellowship to further his education at their facilities. Nash accepted Princeton’s offer and continued his graduate studies in mathematics and sciences.

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.”

In 1950, when Nash was just 21 years old, he presented his dissertation on non-cooperative games. Within this proof was what would become known as the Nash Equilibrium, a concept that would later revolutionize the field of Economics. Many years later, in 1994, Nash was awarded the Nobel memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for this major contribution.

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.

One response to “John Forbes Nash, Jr.”

  1. Estael says:

    I like very much the ” A Beautiful Mind” to the point watching it for three times.

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