John Nash, the mathematician and economist who was the original inspiration and story for the Oscar-winning film, A Beautiful Mind, has died in a car crash after returning from an international trip.
Doctor Nash (86) and his wife, Alicia (82) were pronounced dead at the scene and officials believe they may not have been wearing seat belts at the time when the driver lost control of the vehicle.
The couple were returning home from the airport after a trip to Norway where Dr Nash received the Abel Prize from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.
Dr Nash was widely regarded as one of the great mathematicians of the 20th century, known for the originality of his thinking and for his fearlessness in wrestling down problems so difficult few others dared tackle them. A one-sentence letter written in support of his application to Princeton’s doctoral program in math said simply, “This man is a genius”.
“John’s remarkable achievements inspired generations of mathematicians, economists and scientists,” the president of Princeton, Christopher L. Eisgruber, said on Sunday, “and the story of his life with Alicia moved millions of readers and moviegoers who marvelled at their courage in the face of daunting challenges”.
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Russell Crowe, who portrayed Dr. Nash in A Beautiful Mind, posted on Twitter that he was “stunned” by the deaths. “An amazing partnership,” he wrote. “Beautiful minds, beautiful hearts”.
Dr. Nash’s story was so incredible because although he showed incredible intelligence and promise, his mental position began to show that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia that affected his ability to work, maintain relationships with family and friends and live a normal life. Throughout the 1960s, Nash spent time in and out of hospitals and psychiatric facilities while his wife raised their children and filed for divorce, only to marry later in the 90s.
Dr. Nash returned to work in the 70s and continued to work making incredible discoveries in the intersection of maths and economics.
He is responsible for the Nash Equilibrium, a set of strategies in game theory, where no player can do better by unilaterally changing his or her strategy regardless of the other players’ strategy.
In 1978, Nash was awarded the John von Neumann Theory Prize for his discovery of the Nash Equilibrium. He also won the Leroy P. Steele Prize in 1999.
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In 1994, he received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (along with John Harsanyi and Reinhard Selten) as a result of his game theory work as a Princeton graduate student. In the late 1980s, Nash had begun to use email to gradually link with working mathematicians who realised that he was the John Nash and that his new work had value. They formed part of the nucleus of a group that contacted the Bank of Sweden‘s Nobel award committee and were able to vouch for Nash’s mental health ability to receive the award in recognition of his early work.
Between 1945 and 1996, he published 23 scientific studies that were all highly regarded by economists and scientists around the world. He also received an honorary degree, Doctor of Science and Technology, from Carnegie Mellon University in 1999, an honorary degree in economics from the University of Naples Federico II on March 19, 2003, an honorary doctorate in economics from theUniversity of Antwerp in April 2007, and was keynote speaker at a conference on game theory. He has also been a prolific guest speaker at a number of world-class events, such as the Warwick Economics Summit in 2005 held at the University of Warwick. In 2012 he was elected as a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.
The world has lost one of the most incredible minds it has ever played home to, a mind that has proven that mental illness can be overcome and brilliance can shine.
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