John Nash

HomePage | Recent changes | View source | Discuss this page | Page history | Log in |

Printable version | Disclaimers | Privacy policy

John Forbes Nash Jr. (June 13 1928 - ) is a mathematician who works in game theory and mathematical economics. He was awarded the 1994 Nobel Prize for economics.

After a promising start to his mathematical career, Nash began to suffer from schizophrenia around his 30th year, an illness from which he has only recovered some 25 years later.

John Nash was born in Bluefield, West Virginia as son of John Nash Sr. and Virginia Martin. His father was an electrotechnician; his mother a language teacher. As a young boy he spent much time reading books and experimenting in his room, which he had changed into a laboratory.

From June 1945-June 1948 Nash studied at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburg, with the purpose to become a technical engeneer like his father. But instead began he developing a deep love for mathematics, and a lifelong interest in subjects such as number theory, Diophantine equations, quantum mechanics and relativity theory. He loved solving problems.

At Carnegie he became interested in the 'negotiation problem', which John von Neumann had left unsolved in his book 'The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior' (1928). He participated in the game theory group there, and later on at a similar group at Princeton. His studies on this subject led to three articles, the first entitled 'Equilibrium Points in N-person Games', published in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (1950), and the others in Econometrica about The Bargaining Problem (April 1950) and 'Two-person Cooperative Games' (Januari 1953). The only official economy lessons he followed, by the way, were a series about international trade.

From Pittsburg he went to Princeton University to prepare for his promotion in 1950 on his equilibrium theory with the thesis Non-cooperative games.

In the summer of 1950 he worked at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California, where he returned for shorter periods in 1952 and 1954. From 1950-1951 he taught calculus courses at Princeton, studied and managed to stay out of military service. 1951-1952 he became science assistant at the MIT in Cambridge, Massechussetts. There he met the student Alicia Larde, whom he married in February 1957. Together they have one son, John Charles. The mother of Nash' oldest son, John David, was Eleanor Stier.

In 1958 John Nash began to show the first signs of his mental illness. He became paranoid and was admitted into the McLean Hospital, April-May 1959, where he was diagnosed with 'paranoid schizophrenia'. After a problematic stay in Paris and Geneva, Nash returned to Princeton in 1960. He stayed there (in and out of mental hospitals) until 1970, unable to work or produce meaningful scientific results. Illustrative is the 30-years publication gap between 1966 and 1996 of any scientific work. In 1970 he remained at home and lived a quiet life. In 1978 he was awarded the John Von Neumann Theory Prize for his invention of non-cooperative equilibriums, now called Nash equilibriums.

Nash' mental health improved very slowly. His interest in mathematical problems returned and with it the ability to think logically. He also became interested in computer programming. The nineties brought a return of his genius, though living in a still feeble mind. In 1994 he received the Nobel Prize for Economics. He is still hoping to score substantial scientific results.

A film, "A Beautiful Mind", directed by Ron Howard about some events of Nash's life is being released in December 2001. It is based on the biography of the same title, written by Sylvia Nasar (1999).

Between 1945 and 1996 John Nash published a total of 23 scientific studies, plus an autobiographical essay, 'Les Prix Nobel' (1994), first published in Sweden.


External links: