John Nash Jr., the genius Princeton University mathematician whose life was depicted in the film “A Beautiful Mind,” died Saturday along with his wife Alicia following a Taxi crash on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Nash was 86. Alicia Nash was 82. The couple lived near Princeton University.
Nash was diagnosed with schizophrenia early in his career and after being medicated that prevented him from being productive, decided to deal with his hallucinations in a unique way. The Nobel prize winner decided that he could differentiate between the real and unreal and simply ignored the unreal.
John Nash was inspiring and gave hope to many who suffered from mental illness as he was successful despite his illness. He was example of what many in the mental health field know, that intellect and mental illness sometimes find themselves within the same brain.
NJ.com — Nash, a West Virginia Native, shared a Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994, the year before he joined the Princeton mathematics department as a senior research mathematician. He is known for his work in game theory and his struggle with paranoid schizophrenia, depicted in the 2001 film, “A Beautiful Mind,” starring Russell Crowe.
Russell Crowe who played John Nash in the Movie, ‘A Beautiful Mind’ stated on twitter, “My heart goes out to John &Alicia & family,” he said. “An amazing partnership. Beautiful minds, beautiful hearts.”
Stunned…my heart goes out to John & Alicia & family.
An amazing partnership. Beautiful minds, beautiful hearts. https://t.co/XF4V9MBwU4
— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) May 24, 2015
Ron Howard who directed ‘A Beautiful Mind’ said that it was an honor telling a part of their story.
— Ron Howard (@RealRonHoward) May 24, 2015
This from PBS Biography:
John Nash was born on June 13, 1928, in Bluefield, West Virginia, a former coal town nestled deep in the Appalachian Mountains. As a young boy, Nash was solitary, bookish, and introverted. His father, John Sr., was a quiet engineer with an incisive mind. His mother, Virginia, also intelligent, was a former teacher who had large dreams for her son, pushing him to read at 4, learn Latin, and skip a grade at school…
Soon after, Nash met Alicia Larde, a 21-year-old El Salvadoran physics major at M.I.T. In 1957 they were married. At M.I.T., Nash went on to solve a series of impressive mathematical problems. In July 1958, Fortune magazine named him one of the brightest mathematicians in the world. He had just turned 30.
Despite his success, Nash lamented his inability to win a coveted mathematical prize, the Fields Medal, and also worried he was past his prime as a mathematician. Shortly after Alicia became pregnant, Nash became sick with schizophrenia, the disease that would plague him for most of his life.
After months of bizarre behavior, Alicia had her husband involuntarily hospitalized at McLean Hospital, a private psychiatric hospital outside of Boston. Upon his release, Nash abruptly resigned from M.I.T., withdrew his pension, and went to Europe, where he intended to renounce his U.S. citizenship. Alicia left her newborn son with her mother, and followed her ailing husband. She then had Nash deported — back to the United States.
After their return, the two settled in Princeton, New Jersey, where Alicia took a job. John’s illness continued, transforming him into a frightening figure. He spent most of his time hanging around on the Princeton campus, talking about himself in the third person as Johann von Nassau, writing nonsensical postcards and making phone calls to former colleagues. They stoically listened to his endless discussions of numerology and world political affairs. Her husband’s worsening condition depressed Alicia more and more.
In January 1961 the despondent Alicia, John’s mother, and his sister Martha made the difficult decision to commit him to Trenton State Hospital in New Jersey where he endured insulin-coma therapy, an aggressive and risky treatment, five days a week for a month and a half. After his discharge later that year, Princeton colleagues secured him a research position, but he soon left for Europe again, this time alone, sending cryptic letters home. Alicia, after three years of turmoil, divorced him in 1962. His math colleagues came to his rescue again, landing him a position at Brandeis University in Boston and arranging for him to meet with a psychiatrist, who prescribed anti-psychotic medication. Nash’s condition improved. He began spending time with Eleanor and his first son, John David.
“Oh, it was very hopeful then, really very hopeful,” said his sister, Martha. “Because that was a fairly long period. And then things began to slip.” John went off his medication, fearing the effects of the drugs on his thinking, and the delusional symptoms resurfaced.
In 1970 Alicia Nash, believing she had made a mistake by originally committing her husband, took him in again, this time as her “boarder,” a move that might have prevented his homelessness. In the years following, Nash wandered the Princeton campus, leaving cryptic formulas on blackboards. Princeton students dubbed him “The Phantom.”
Then, in the 1980s, Nash slowly began to get better — his delusions diminished and he became more engaged with the world around him. Although it is unclear how it happens, a portion of people with schizophrenia do recover as they age. In 1994, at the age of 66, John Nash received the Nobel Prize in Economics in Stockholm, Sweden, for his work on game theory. Thirty-eight years after their divorce, Alicia and John remarried. Nash has returned to an office at Princeton, where he continues to explore mathematics, the world in which he first succeeded, the world that carried him during his debilitating illness, and the world that has embraced him again.
A personal note from the Editor at Large of PolitiSite:
The story of John Nash as portrayed in ‘A Beautiful Mind’ has been an inspiration to me. I was diagnosed with Bipolar II in 1993 and had thought that I would not be able to be successful with this disorder. While looking for strategies to deal with my illness (other than sometimes debilitating medication) I came across Nash’s story.
My mind has always been a major asset and I was concerned that this illness would eventually render my insight and judgement useless. John Nash’s life convinced me that I could be of use to this world even with a debilitating mental illness.
Thankfully views on mental illness have changed over the years and with rehabilitation modalities being used today, many who once were considered lost causes are leading successful productive lives. I am among that subset of society.
Thank You John Nash for your life and example. Thank you Ron Howard for bringing the story to national attention.