Story of ‘a tragic yet a beautiful mind’ – Prof. John Nash

John Nash -

His outstanding contributions to the field of Economics won him a Nobel Prize in 1994. However, the life of American Mathematician genius John Nash was never a cake walk.

John Nash -

Nash was born on June 13, 1928, in Bluefield, West Virginia. This Princeton ingenious doctoral student is known for his breakthrough work in mathematics and game theory. However, the lesser known fact about him is how he curtailed with the descent of severe Schizophrenia.

His life inspired a biography ‘A beautiful mind’ and an Oscar Winning movie with the same name.

Work of John Nash:

  1. Game theory: Nash earned a PhD degree in 1950 with a 28-page dissertation on non-cooperative games. The thesis, written under the supervision of doctoral advisor Albert W. Tucker, contained the definition and properties of the Nash equilibrium, a crucial concept in non-cooperative games. It won Nash the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1994.
  2. Nash did ground-breaking work in the area of real algebraic geometry.
  3. His work in mathematics also includes the Nash embedding theorem, which shows that every abstract Riemannian manifold can be isometrically realized as a sub-manifold of Euclidean space.
  4. He also made significant contributions to the theory of nonlinear parabolic partial differential equations and to singularity theory.

Fight with Schizophrenia:

Although Nash’s mental illness first began to manifest in the form of paranoia. And later diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia. As a result, Nash became delusional and hallucinated. He began to see people and started to assume incidents that made him take illogical and irrational steps.

At one point, Nash was convinced that the Russians were conspiring against America. This led him to take unhealthy measures to plot against them. His compulsive behaviour was not evident up until he was supposed to deliver a speech on Riemannian manifolds. On the stage, John Nash supposedly forgot and started to mutter. This speech heralded a notion of his illness among all the colleagues of John.

Another time, he gave a student what he said was an intergalactic driver’s license, according to the Washington Post, and he believed the Times was publishing messages from extra-terrestrials and that he could understand them.

Incidents like these cost him his job at Pentagon. However, with his wife; Alicia besides him, he started to roam around the Princeton Campus and stay in the library. Nash’s schizophrenia started to fade, allowing him to return to academic work at Princeton University. However, all that took a very long – long time.

Years of hospitalization, severe electroshock therapies, and after consuming a number of medications, Nash decided to fight his delusions and hallucinations with their source and the source of his brilliance — his mind. He dropped all his medications and decided he was “going to think rationally”.

Due to his persistence to endure, his hallucinations started to fall back. He came in as a hero for surviving Schizophrenia. His defensive armour did not happen to be medicine rather his unrivalled intellect.


  1. In 1978, Nash was awarded the John von Neumann Theory Prize for his discovery of non-cooperative equilibria, now called Nash Equilibria.
  2. He won the Leroy P. Steele Prize in 1999
  3. In 1994, he received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences as a result of his game theory work as a Princeton graduate student.
  4. Nash received an honorary degree, Doctor of Science and Technology, from Carnegie Mellon University in 1999.
  5. An honorary degree in economics from the University of Naples Federico II on March 19, 2003.
  6. In economics, An honorary doctorate from the University of Antwerp in April 2007.
  7. And an honorary doctorate of science from the City University of Hong Kong on November 8, 2011.


John Nash and his wife died in a taxi crash in New Jersey in 2015. Leaving the world at the age of 86, he taught us very important lessons in life.

 “Genius… is the capacity to see ten things where the ordinary man sees one.”

You and I wouldn’t have survived what John survived. This quote sums it all up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *