RIP John Nash: The Beautiful Mind Mathematician's Greatest Achievements

By Gary Cutlack on at

Mathematician John Nash has died. Not because the numbers of his age (86) were counting against him, but due to a tragic taxi accident in New Jersey that also took the life of his wife, Alicia.

Oh yes, he was the, er, he did the, he was in the... 

Maths man. He won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994, an award he shared with two other famed game theorists. He was a lifelong student of numbers, a love that started when his maths-tiger parents and grandparents fed him maths books and encouraged him to take extracurricular courses to further hone his young mind.

...and there was a film...

Yes, there was a film, but he was initially known for forming the Nash equilibrium, a cornerstone of game theory, a method of explaining how players in a non-cooperative game best adjust their strategies to take into account the decisions of their opponents. It's used today to predict outcomes of situations where others are trying to second-guess the actions of others and adjust their strategies accordingly.

...and they did a film...

Yes, there was a film, but one of the saddest aspects of his life was the way his talent was stymied by mental health issues. He was (involuntarily) hospitalised for the treatment of schizophrenia in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, eventually managing to stabilize his condition to such an extent that he was able to return to maths and take up educational roles with Princeton university.

...and wasn't there a film...

Yes, there was a film, but he was also known in academic circles for studying and producing papers on algebraic geometry, including, among other maths theories he tackled, coming to a proof of Hilbert's nineteenth problem. He also studied in the field of cryptography, pioneering the ideas that keep data safe today.

...and they made a film about him...

Yes, OK, there was a film. Russell Crowe played him in Oscar-winning film A Beautiful Mind, which focused on the aforementioned mental health struggles, as showing a man being good at sums for two hours probably wouldn't have got many bums on seats, not even if it was on the IMAX. [BBC]

Image credit: John Nash from Shutterstock