It’s important to celebrate people who achieve great things. If for no other reason than to inspire us.
On this occasion, we visit the world of mathematics to pay tribute to John Nash, who recently passed away. John Nash is considered one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century. He was a key proponent of game theory (ask your maths teacher!) and left an indelible mark on the world of academia. They even made a film about him, called A Beautiful Mind.
John Forbes Nash, Jr. was born on June 13th in West Virginia. From an early age, he showed signs of his great intellectual ability. He received a scholarship to study at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, where he begun a chemical engineering major, but eventually switched to mathematics. When he was applying for Princeton University, one of his former professors wrote him a recommendation that consisted of one line. It said:
“This man is a genius.”
John Nash excelled in the field of mathematics, coming up with new theories and angles from which to view previously unsolvable mathematical problems. His work won him numerous awards and acclaim. Although he was a mathematician, his theories apply to lots of different subjects, including biology, computing, artificial intelligence, politics and economics.
However, in the 1960s, it became clear that John Nash suffered from mental illness. Nash started experiencing severe paranoia, believing that there were people plotting against him. His illness drastically affected all aspects of his life, including his work. In 1959, when speaking at the American Mathematical Society at Columbia University, it was noted immediately that his lecture was incomprehensible. He was hospitalised and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
After around 30 years, Nash began to overcome his mental illness, having been in and out of psychiatric wards and mental institutions. In the 1980s, he managed to continue his work in mathematics and game theory. In 1994, John Nash was awarded the biggest prize of them all, the Noble Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.
On May 23rd, 2015, Nash died in a car crash, but his work and legacy will live on forever. If you’re interested in this spectacular man’s life, then why not read A Beautiful Mind, a book about his life authored by Sylvia Nasar, or watch the movie of the same name.