A Beautiful Mind John Nash Dies at 86 in taxi accident, Mathematician and Nobel Prize winner, One of great mathematicians of 20th century, Known for originality of his thinking


A Beautiful Mind John Nash Dies at 86 in taxi accident, Mathematician and Nobel Prize winner, One of great mathematicians of 20th century, Known for originality of his thinking



From the NY Times May 24, 2015.

“John Nash, ‘A Beautiful Mind’ Subject and Nobel Winner, Dies at 86

John F. Nash Jr., a mathematician who shared a Nobel Prize in 1994 for work that greatly extended the reach and power of modern economic theory and whose decades-long descent into severe mental illness and eventual recovery were the subject of a book and a 2001 film, both titled “A Beautiful Mind,” was killed, along with his wife, in a car crash on Saturday in New Jersey. He was 86.

Dr. Nash, and his wife, Alicia, 82, were in a taxi on the New Jersey Turnpike in Monroe Township around 4:30 p.m. when the driver lost control while trying to pass another car and hit a guard rail and another vehicle, said Sgt. Gregory Williams of the New Jersey State Police.

The couple were ejected from the cab and pronounced dead at the scene. The taxi driver and the driver of the other car were treated for non-life threatening injuries. No criminal charges have been filed.

The Nashes were returning from Norway, where Dr. Nash and Louis Nirenberg, a mathematician from New York University, had received theAbel Prize from The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.


John F. Nash Jr. at his graduation from Princeton in 1950.CreditCourtesy of Martha Nash Legg

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, “and the story of his life with Alicia moved millions of readers and moviegoers who marveled at their courage in the face of daunting challenges.”

Russell Crowe, who portrayed Dr. Nash in “A Beautiful Mind,” tweeted that he was “stunned,” by his death. “An amazing partnership,” he wrote. “Beautiful minds, beautiful hearts.”

Dr. Nash’s theory of noncooperative games, published in 1950 and known as Nash equilibrium, provided a conceptually simple but powerful mathematical tool for analyzing a wide range of competitive situations, from corporate rivalries to legislative decision making. Dr. Nash’s approach is now pervasive in economics and throughout the social sciences and is applied routinely in other fields, like evolutionary biology.

Harold W. Kuhn, an emeritus professor of mathematics at Princeton and a longtime friend and colleague of Dr. Nash’s who died in 2014, said, “I think honestly that there have been really not that many great ideas in the 20th century in economics and maybe, among the top 10, his equilibrium would be among them.” An economist, Roger Myerson of the University of Chicago, went further, comparing the impact of Nash equilibrium on economics “to that of the discovery of the DNA double helix in the biological sciences.”

Dr. Nash also made contributions to pure mathematics that many mathematicians view as more significant than his Nobel-winning work on game theory, including solving an intractable problem in differential geometry derived from the work of the 19th century mathematician G.F.B. Riemann.

“Jane Austen wrote six novels, Bach wrote six partitas,” said Barry Mazur, a professor of mathematics at Harvard who was a freshman at M.I.T. when Dr. Nash taught there. “I think Nash’s pure mathematical contributions are on that level. Very, very few papers he wrote on different subjects, but the ones that had impact had incredible impact.”

Yet to a wider audience, Dr. Nash was probably best known for his life story, a tale of dazzling achievement, devastating loss and almost miraculous redemption. The narrative of Dr. Nash’s brilliant rise, the lost years when his world dissolved in schizophrenia, his return to rationality and the awarding of the Nobel, retold in a biography by Sylvia Nasar and in the Oscar-winning film, captured the public mind and became a symbol of the destructive force of mental illness and the stigma that often hounds those who suffer from it.

John Forbes Nash was born on June 13, 1928, in Bluefield, W. Va. His father, John Sr., was an electrical engineer. His mother, Margaret, was a schoolteacher.”

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