John Nash: A beautiful mind; an ugly man

I just finished reading A Beautiful Mind, by Sylvia Nasar, which formed the basis of the recent movie of the same title starring Russell Crow.


John Nash, of course, is the subject of both. An incredibly talented, intelligent, and productive mathematician, he succumbs to paranoid schizophrenia around the age of 30 … and miraculously emerges from the illness some 30 years later.

He also abandons a lover and son, makes his wife’s life a living hell, and generally treats people like crap.

Much of that, of course, can be attributed to his illness, and the rest to his almost certainly deficient socialization that lead him to treat others – through most of his life – as little more than means to ends.

After winning the Noble for Economics (as a result of his having made very significant contributions to possibly critical, possibly irrelevant subject of game theory), Nash does seem to make a serious effort to treat his ex-wife, estranged son, and second son better, as well as the rest of his family.

Though the book does portray him as someone you probably don’t want to know to closely, at least during the first 60-odd years of his life, A Beautiful Mind is a fascinating portrayal of the world of top-level mathematicians developing the field against a frightening, omnipresent cold war backdrop. The book also provides insights into the work and lives of some of the most famous scientists of the past century, including Einstein and von Neuman.

Great, engrossing book!