John Forbes Nash
Born: 13 June 1928 in Bluefield, West Virginia, USA
Johnny Nash, as he was called by his family, was born in Bluefield Sanatorium and baptised into
the Episcopal Church. He was a singular little boy, solitary and introverted. he was brought up in a loving family surrounded
by close relations who showed him much affection.
Martha(his younger sister) and her cousins played the usual childhood games cutting patterns
out of books, playing hide-and-seek in the attic, playing football. However while the others played together Johnny played
by himself with toy airplanes and matchbox cars. By the time he was about twelve years old he was showing great interest in
carrying out scientific experiments in his room at home. It is fairly clear that he learnt more at home than he did at school.
Nash won a scholarship in the George Westinghouse Competition and was accepted by the Carnegie
Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University) which he entered in June 1945 with the intention of taking a degree
in chemical engineering. Soon, however, his growing interest in mathematics had him take courses on tensor calculus and relativity.
There he came in contact with John Synge who had recently been appointed as Head of the Mathematics Department and taught
the relativity course. Synge and the other mathematics professors quickly recognised Nash's remarkable mathematical talents
and persuaded him to become a mathematics specialist. They realised that he had the talent to become a professional mathematician
and strongly encouraged him.
Nash quickly aspired to great things in mathematics. He took the William Lowell Putnam Mathematics
Competition twice but, although he did well, he did not make the top five. It was a failure in Nash's eyes and one which he
took badly. The Putnam Mathematics Competition was not the only thing going badly for Nash.
Norbert Wiener was one of the first to recognize that Nash's extreme eccentricities and personality
problems were actually symptoms of a medical disorder. After months of bizarre behaviour, Alicia(his wife) had her husband
involuntarily hospitalised at McLean Hospital, a private psychiatric hospital outside of Boston.
In the 1990s Nash made a recovery from the schizophrenia from which he had suffered since 1959.
His ability to produce mathematics of the highest quality did not totally leave him. He said:-
I would not treat myself as recovered if I could not produce good things in my work.
Nash was awarded (jointly with Harsanyi and Selten) the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economic Science
for his work on game theory. In 1999 he was awarded the Leroy P Steele Prize by the American Mathematical Society.
His lifes story was also made into a movie, A Beautiful Mind, in
2001, staring Russel Crowe, and won 4 Academy Awards including Best Picture.