A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash Paperback – Dec 4 2001
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Stories of famously eccentric Princetonians abound--such as that of chemist Hubert Alyea, the model for The Absent-Minded Professor, or Ralph Nader, said to have had his own key to the library as an undergraduate. Or the "Phantom of Fine Hall," a figure many students had seen shuffling around the corridors of the math and physics building wearing purple sneakers and writing numerology treatises on the blackboards. The Phantom was John Nash, one of the most brilliant mathematicians of his generation, who had spiraled into schizophrenia in the 1950s. His most important work had been in game theory, which by the 1980s was underpinning a large part of economics. When the Nobel Prize committee began debating a prize for game theory, Nash's name inevitably came up--only to be dismissed, since the prize clearly could not go to a madman. But in 1994 Nash, in remission from schizophrenia, shared the Nobel Prize in economics for work done some 45 years previously.
Economist and journalist Sylvia Nasar has written a biography of Nash that looks at all sides of his life. She gives an intelligent, understandable exposition of his mathematical ideas and a picture of schizophrenia that is evocative but decidedly unromantic. Her story of the machinations behind Nash's Nobel is fascinating and one of very few such accounts available in print (the CIA could learn a thing or two from the Nobel committees). This highly recommended book is indeed "a story about the mystery of the human mind, in three acts: genius, madness, reawakening." --Mary Ellen Curtin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Nasar has written a notable biography of mathematical genius John Forbes Nash (b. 1928), a founder of game theory, a RAND Cold War strategist and winner of a 1994 Nobel Prize in economics. She charts his plunge into paranoid schizophrenia beginning at age 30 and his spontaneous recovery in the early 1990s after decades of torment. He attributes his remission to will power; he stopped taking antipsychotic drugs in 1970 but underwent a half-dozen involuntary hospitalizations. Born in West Virginia, the flamboyant mathematical wizard rubbed elbows at Princeton and MIT with Einstein, John von Neumann and Norbert Wiener. He compartmentalized his secret personal life, shows Nasar, hiding his homosexual affairs with colleagues from his mistress, a nurse who bore him a son out of wedlock, while he also courted Alicia Larde, an MIT physics student whom he married in 1957. Their son, John, born in 1959, became a mathematician and suffers from episodic schizophrenia. Alicia divorced Nash in 1963, but they began living together again as a couple around 1970. Today Nash, whose mathematical contributions span cosmology, geometry, computer architecture and international trade, devotes himself to caring for his son. Nasar, an economics correspondent for the New York Times, is equally adept at probing the puzzle of schizophrenia and giving a nontechnical context for Nash's mathematical and scientific ideas.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
AMONG JOHN NASH'S EARLIEST MEMORIES is one in which, as a child of about two or three, he is listening to his maternal grandmother play the piano in the front parlor of the old Tazewell Street house, high on a breezy hill overlooking the city of Bluefield, West Virginia. Read the first page
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Top Customer Reviews
But whereas Dostoyevsky's character commits a murder, Nash's main offense is merely to be an arrogant and boorish lout, forever trying to show off to his fellow students at Princeton. When he is later struck down by mental illness after achieving so much so young, we can't help feeling there is an element of hubris involved.
Nash also fits into the popular paradigm of the lop-sided genius, the person of incredible talents who can't deal with the simpler aspects of daily life. As in the case of the notoriously absent-minded Albert Einstein -- whom Nash meets in the book -- or the equally eccentric Isaac Newton, we somehow feel reassured that these supreme geniuses have their weaknesses. For all these reasons, this is a story that resonates on a mythic and psychological level. We keep rooting for Nash, but also secretly look forward to him tripping up. This reflects the ambivalent attitude to the sciences that most people have -- we are both intrigued by new discoveries but afraid of their ramifications.
Around the age of 30, Nash's quest to find greater meaning in the Universe sparked off his insanity as he started to discern complex codes implanted by extra-terrestrials in the random occurrence of certain letters of the alphabet in daily life.Read more ›
John Nash, a mathematical genius, had many ups and downs in his life, including a diagnosed mental illness and various social problems that made his life painful and complicated. His Nobel-prize winning work occurred while he was writing his dissertation at Princeton. He was not recognized until later in his life for his ground-breaking contribution to "game theory".
His story is one not only of his incredible gift, mental illness and remission, but really one of personal victory. In the end, he learns to live in harmony with those around him doing what he enjoyed most.
One of my most recent favorites!
well this book has been well commented on so i'll try to keep this brief.
first, it is fact that many great mathematicians develop some sort of mental illness (it happened to kurt godel, georg cantor, and even issac newton). nash, then, is not really an unusual case.
what does make him interesting, then, is the fact that he had "reawakened" from his illness and continued to do math in his old age. such among mathematic circles is very rare.
and his math is indeed great. nash's ability to solve problems concerning manifolds and other topological spaces is still making waves in math today. the layman unfortunately, like nasar, doesn't appreciate this fully, which is a shame. i would have liked to get a mathematician's view on johnny's life.
but, as a pop bio, it's not too bad. i agree with other reviews that it contained too much minute detail, and her references to nash looking like a golden god were overstated and a bit offputting. i wouldn't be surprised if nasar was really in love with nash. (she might have dedicated her book to alicia to subdue any suspicions of that sort.)
in the end, though, we see the life of one of the greatest modern mathematicians, through triumph and tribulation, which was the ultimate goal of the book. i would recommend this book to some and not to others.
Most recent customer reviews
This book, which inspired a motion picture, is arguably most important for things that have nothing to do with MeTZelf, like mathematics, mathematicians, and universities. Read morePublished on Aug. 8 2011 by Mira de Vries
Ce livre relate la vie de John Forbes Nash, Jr grand
mathématicien, prix Nobel. Mais il nous introduit dans
aussi dans un monde fascinant, le monde des grandes... Read more
Like many others I only came to this biography through the 2001 Ron Howard movie starring Russell Crowe. Read morePublished on May 23 2004 by Christopher Nelson
The story of John Nash, a Nobel Prize winner, who recovered from schizophrenia after a 30 year bout with the disease. Read morePublished on April 30 2004 by J. Okamoto
"A Beautiful Mind"
The author of "A Beautiful Mind," is Sylvia Nasar. This book is absolutely extraordinary as well as unbelievable. Read more
A Beautiful Mind has received much praise,and deservedly so.I don't think anyone could have written a better biography of this extraordinary mathematical genius ,who was lost to... Read morePublished on April 8 2004 by Georges Melki
This great biography describes the very bizarre genius from his days in a small West Virginia town, through his undergrad days in a very sooty, unhealthy Pittsburgh ,just after... Read morePublished on Feb. 12 2004 by Hans Castorp
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