John Forbes Nash Jr. (1928 – 2015) was an American mathematical genius and child prodigy. He began academic life as a young brilliant student and was soon well known to all his teachers and peers. Something was rather strange about John Nash, he was extremely self absorbed and narcissistic to the point of being insufferable. After graduating in 1948 at age 19 with both B.S. and M.S. in mathematics, John Nash accepted a scholarship to Princeton University where he pursued further graduate studies in mathematics.
At Princeton University he began work on his equilibrium theory, later known as the Nash equilibrium. Nash was solving classical mathematical problems, something that nobody else was able to do, not even to imagine how to do it. He earned a PhD. in 1950 at age 21 and was engaged as a teacher of mathematics at Princeton. It turned out John Nash was a terrible teacher who rather bragged about his numerous accomplishments with little desire to impact his knowledge on others. His colleagues soon found him exceptionally arrogant and his relationships with the opposite sex suffered due to his being tactless and blunt about direct coitus without normal courtship.
Early 1959 John Nash was giving a lecture at Columbia University intending to provide proof of the Riemann hypothesis but the lecture was incomprehensible. Colleagues in the audience immediately realized that something was wrong with him. John Nash was rambling nonsense only later to excuse himself hastily out of the auditorium. Everyone present was left in shock only days later to known that John Nash had been admitted and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia which meant he had lost touch with reality. Over the next nine years he spent periods in psychiatric hospitals where he received treatment.
The lapse from scientific thinking to delusional thinking plagued John Nash making the known genius to behave like a silly child. After his condition began to improve his wife asked him to spend more time at Princeton University with help from former colleagues. His eccentricities were soon evident at the University and the freshmen took to making a jest of his odd behavior. The taunts were so humiliating that only his wife could get him to continue going to the university for social interaction which could further help his condition.
On a memorable day he was working on the Embedding Theorem, which shows that every abstract Riemannian manifold can be isometrically realized as a submanifold of Euclidean space. The equations were being proved on the library window and students that passed on were horrified that such a madman – due to his sometimes unkempt appearance, successfully solved a very difficult mathematical problem. After the incident he was recognized as a genius once again and reinstalled into the teaching process; but at this time John Nash had become a very humble man.
In 1978, John Nash was awarded the John von Neumann Theory Prize for his discovery of non- cooperative equilibria. And in 1994 John Nash was awarded the Noble Memorial Prize in economics science as a result of his game theory work as a Princeton graduate student. John Nash had to pass through a difficult process to teach him one of the eminent lessons in life; pride always come before a fall.
Now! The big question remains what is it that makes you arrogant and overbearing? Is it beauty. Is it fame. Is it talent. Is it riches. Is it family history. Is it country of birth. John Nash regained his mathematical genius after a very long and painful experience but remember; not everyone regains his or her genius, beauty, talent, riches, strength when they are gone.
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This was a really interesting piece!
Thanks for writing, Durkwa!
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I am glad you found it interesting Evan. Thanks for stopping by.
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