John Forbes Nash Jr. was born on june 13, 1928 in Bluefield, West Virginia, U.S. His father John Forbes Nash, was an electrical engineer for the Apalanchian electric power company. His mother, Margaret Virginia Nash, had been a school teacher before she married. He was baptized in the Episcopal church. He had a younger sister, Martha.

Nash attended kindergarten and public school and he learned from books provided by his parents and grandparents. Nash’s parents pursued opportunities to supplement their son’s education and arranged for him to take advanced mathematics courses at a local community college during his final year of high school. He attended Carnegie institute of technology through a full benefit of the George Westinghouse scholarship, initially majoring in chemical engineering. He switched to chemistry major and eventually at the advice of his teacher John Lighton Synge, to mathematics. After graduating in 1948 at age 19 with both a B.S and M.S in mathematics, Nash accepted a scholarship to Princeton university, where he pursued further graduate studies in mathematics. Nash was also accepted at Harvard University. However, the chairman of the mathematics department at Princeton, Solomon Lefschetz, offered him the John Skennedy fellowship, convincing Nash that Princeton valued him more. Further, he considered Princeton more favourably because of its proximity to his family in Bluefield. At Princeton, he began to work on his equilibrium theory, later known as the “NASH EQUILIBRIUM.” It won Nash the “Nobel memorial prize in economic sciences” in 1994.

In 1958, Nash earned a tenurel position at MIT and his first signs of mental illness were evident in early 1959. At this time his wife De Larde was pregnant with her first child. Nash’s mental illness first began in the form of paranoia his wife later described his behaviour as erratic. Nash seemed to believe that all men who wore red ties were part of a communist conspiracy against him. Nash mailed letters to embassies in Washington, D.C, declaring that they were establishing a government. Nash’s psychological issues crossed into his professional life when he gave an American mathematical society lecture at Columbia University in 1959. Originally intended to present proof of the “Riemann Hypothesis”, the lecture was incomprehensible. Colleagues in the audience immediately realized that something was wrong.

He was admitted to Mclean hospital in April 1959, staying through May month of the same year. There, he was diagnosed with “Paranoid Schizophrenia”. According to the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorder , or DSM , a person suffering from the disorder is typically dominated by relatively stable, often paranoid, fixed beliefs that are either false, over imaginative or unrealistic and usually accompanied by experiences of seemingly real perception of something not actually present. Further signs are marked particularly by auditory and perceptional disturbances, a lack of motivation for life, and mild clinical depression.

In 1961, Nash was admitted to the New Jersey State hospital at Trenton. Over the rest nine years, he spent periods in psychiatric hospitals, where he received both antipsychotic medications and insulin shock therapy.

Although he sometimes took prescribed medication. Nash later wrote that he did so only under pressure. After 1970, he was never committed to a hospital again, and he refused any further medication. According to Nash, the film “A Beautiful Mind” inaccurately implied that he was taking what were the new atypical antipsychotics of the time period. He attributed the depiction to the screenwriter who was worried about the film encouraging people with the disorder to stop taking their medication. Journalist Robert Whitaker wrote an article suggesting recovering from illness like Nash can be hindered by such drugs.

Nash felt antipsychotic drugs were overrated and the adverse effects were not given enough consideration once someone was deemed mentally ill. According to Sylvia Nasar, author of the book “A Beautiful Mind”, on which the movie was based, Nash recovered gradually with the passage of time. Encouraged by his then former wife, De Larde, Nash lived at home and spent his time in the Princeton mathematics department where his eccentricities were accepted even when his condition was poor. De Larder edits his recovery to maintaining a quiet life with social support.

Nash wrote in 1994 that he spent times of the order of five to eight in hospitals in New Jersey, always on an involuntary basis and always attempting a legal argument for release and it did happen when he had been long enough hospitalised that he would finally renounce his delusional hypotheses and revert to thinking of himself as an human of more conventional circumstances and return to mathematical research.

Nash described this “mental disturbances” as a process of change from scientific rationality of thinking to the delusional thinking characteristics of persons who are psychiatrically diagnosed as “schizophrenic” or “paranoid schizophrenic”. Nash suggested that his delusional thinking was related to his unhappiness, his desire to feel important and to be recognised, and his characteristic way of thinking saying, “I would not have scientific ideas if i had thought more normally.” He also said “If I felt completely pressureless, I don’t think I would have gone in this pattern. Nash reported that he did not hear voices until around 1964, and later engaged in a process of consciously rejecting them. He further stated he was always taken to hospitals against his will. He only temporarily renounced his dream like “Delusional hypotheses” after being in a hospital long enough to decide he would superficially conform to behave normally or to experience enforced rationality. By 1995, however even though he was thinking rationally again in the style that is the characteristics of scientists, ‘he said he felt more limited.’

Due to the stress of dealing with mental illness, Nash and Larde divorced in 1963. He stopped taking psychiatric mediation and was allowed by Princeton to audit classes. He continued to work on mathematics and eventually he was allowed to teach again. In the 1990s Nash resumed his relationship with Larde, remarrying her in 2001.

On May 23, 2015, Nash and his wife died due to a accident on the New Jersey Turnpike near Monroe Township in New Jersey. They had been on their way home from the airport after a visit to Norway, when Nash had received the “ABEL PRIZE”, when their taxicab driver lost control of the vehicle and struck a quardrail. At the time of his death Nash was 86 years old. Following his death, orbituaries appeared in scientific and popular media throughout the world. At Princeton, Nash became known as the “Phantom of fine hall” a shadowy figure who would scribble arcane equations on blackboards in the middle of the night.

Sylvia Nasar’s biography of Nash, “A Beautiful Mind”, was published in 1998. A film by the same name was released in 2001, directed by Ron Howard with Russell Crowe playing Nash. It won four academy awards, including the Best picture.

1978 – Informs John Von Naimann theory prize
1994 – Nobel memorial prize in economic sciences
2010 – Double helix medal
2015 – Abel Prize


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *