A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash

A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash

4.5 42
by Sylvia Nasar

ISBN-10: 0743224574

ISBN-13: 9780743224574

Pub. Date: 12/28/2001

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

In this dramatic and moving biography, Sylvia Nasar recreates the life of a mathematical genius whose brilliant career was cut short by schizophrenia and who, after three decades of devastating mental illness, miraculously recovered and was honored with a Nobel Prize. A Beautiful Mind traces the meteoric rise of John Forbes Nash, Jr., from his lonely childhood…  See more details below


In this dramatic and moving biography, Sylvia Nasar recreates the life of a mathematical genius whose brilliant career was cut short by schizophrenia and who, after three decades of devastating mental illness, miraculously recovered and was honored with a Nobel Prize. A Beautiful Mind traces the meteoric rise of John Forbes Nash, Jr., from his lonely childhood in West Virginia to his student years at Princeton, where he encountered Albert Einstein, John von Neumann, and a host of other mathematical luminaries. At 21, the handsome, ambitious, eccentric graduate student invented what would become the most influential theory of rational human behavior in modern social science. Nash's contribution to game theory would ultimately revolutionize the field of economics.

As a young professor at MIT, still in his 20s, Nash dazzled the mathematical world by solving a series of deep problems deemed "impossible" by other mathematicians. As unconventional in his private life as in his mathematics, Nash fathered a child with a woman he did not marry. At the height of the McCarthy era, he was expelled as a security risk from the supersecret RAND Corporation -- the Cold War think tank where he was a consultant. At 30, Nash was poised to take his dreamed-of place in the pantheon of history's greatest mathematicians. His associates included the most renowned mathematicians and economists of the era: Norbert Wiener, John Milnor, Alexandre Grothendieck, Kenneth Arrow, Robert Solow, and Paul Samuelson. He married an exotic and beautiful MIT physics student, Alicia Larde. They had a son. Then Nash suffered a catastrophic mental breakdown. Nasar details Nash's harrowing descent into insanity -- his bizarre delusions that he was the Prince of Peace; his resignation from MIT, flight to Europe, and attempt to renounce his American citizenship; his repeated hospitalizations, from the storied McLean, where he came to know the poet Robert Lowell, to the crowded wards of a state hospital; his "enforced interludes of rationality" during which he was able to return briefly to mathematical research. Nash and his wife were divorced in 1963, but Alicia Nash continued to care for him and for their mathematically gifted son, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teenager. Saved from homelessness by his loyal ex-wife and protected by a handful of mathematical friends, Nash lived quietly in Princeton for many years, a dreamy, ghostlike figure who scrawled numerological messages on blackboards, all but forgotten by the outside world.

His early achievements, however, fired the imagination of a new generation of scholars. At age 66, twin miracles -- a spontaneous remission of his illness and the sudden decision of the Nobel Prize committee to honor his contributions to game theory -- restored the world to him. Nasar recounts the bitter behind-the-scenes battle in Stockholm over whether to grant the ultimate honor in science to a man thought to be "mad." She describes Nash's current ambition to pursue new mathematical breakthroughs and his efforts to be a loving father to his adult son. Based on hundreds of interviews with Nash's family, friends, and colleagues and scores of letters and documents, A Beautiful Mind is a heartbreaking but inspiring story about the most remarkable mathematician of our time and his triumph over a tragic illness.

Read More

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
Edition description:
Movie Tie-In Edition
Product dimensions:
6.18(w) x 9.18(h) x 1.14(d)

Table of Contents

Part One: A Beautiful Mind
Part Two: Separate Lives
Part Three: A Slow Fire Burning
Part Four: The Lost Years

Part Five: The Most Worthy
Select Bibliography................................................435

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

A Beautiful Mind 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 46 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a person interested in biography, history and psychology, I found this book to be well-written and frequently poignant. Some biographies degrade into a stiff, lifeless recitation of history, but this story is at turns interesting, insightful and compelling. It's been a long time since I have enjoyed a biography this much.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Thank God someone has the courage to write a hopeful and honest portrayal of someone who is a survivor of a severe mental illness. It is a rare thing indeed to read something at all positive about the mentally ill. Bravo to the courageous and skillful writer of this book and her subject of study, Mr. Nash. Another wonderful new book to read which also gives hope to the mentally ill and the survivors of mental illness is the beautifully written new autobiography by Tracy Harris entitled 'The Music of Madness'. I highly reccomend both books if you want to be inspired and enlightened.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The journey we call life is often filled with tensions and emotions which are a result of those tensions. These things are the spices of life unless they loom so large in relation to our logical mind that they become bitter waters. A trial it is, then, to have tensions so great or emotions so compelling that one is unable to live a 'normal' life. It is interesting to see inside that space to which the logical mind is relegated when all other spaces are filled with the darkness of mental illness. Peering out of the logical into the surrounding unfathomable darkness we readers can almost get a sense of what life with an unrelenting mental illness is like. The inspiration for us all is in the character's finding of the light and the regaining of the control of that dark side of the mind. Another such journey from darkness into light is told by Tracy Harris in her book, 'The Music of Madness'. In Ms. Harris' case the journey is of a brilliant Musician whose life deconstructs because of Mental illness and its tormentors. It is at once chilling, fascinating, frightening, and like Nash she triumphs through sheer strength of will. Both stories are inspirational, and both end up letting the reader feel that he or she just might have hope after all, no matter how high the mountain, or how deep the sea.
Guest More than 1 year ago
To begin with a cliche, I enjoyed the book more than the movie. Nasar did a great deal of research in compiling this book. Nash is described as a lot more strange and somewhat more boring than he is in the movie, and Nasar's description is probably more accurate. I think Hollywood did a disservice to schizophrenics by depicting the disease as a lot more romantic than it really is. Nasar has an easy writing style, is insightful, and pays great attention to detail. Highly recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book because I became obsessed with the hyp for the movie and the man. I never expected to like the book as much as I did. Could not put it down. Even reading through the mathematical problems was easy. I was so disappointed when I finished it. I will not forget this book for a long time!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Excellent movie. Great acting on all cast members. Definitely portrayed John Nash's life very well. Gave much enlightenment on a difficult disease. A positive approach. Helped to understand a disease that a person has to carry inside.
edwinhope More than 1 year ago
A believable and touching biography of human proportions yet with an insight into a special world of intellectual experience most of us will never achieve. The story of mental illness told in a very personal and specific way. It makes the reader more sympathetic about a little understood ailment that has catastrophic consequences in the patient and all who come in contact with him or her. The movie was great entertainment; the book is great biography.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very good book rich with details.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
GlenThorsen More than 1 year ago
A Beautiful Mind is a stellar book. It provides a detailed look inside the mind of the mentally ill set against the backdrop of mathematics. It is a sad story. I found it very hard to put down. I found it even better than the movie, which I loved. John Nash’s ability to mind over matter his reality is inspirational. Five stars.
KarindN More than 1 year ago
Sylvia Nasar did not skimp on anything in this biography. I am very impressed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Robinhoodbook More than 1 year ago
Amazing life of one of the most prominent genius, the author knows how to mix the scientific approach of a genius, with skills, social life, it is a very honest life of one of the most important minds in Mathematics, paradoxically with personal issues or eccentric moments about this great person and the people that surrounds him. Makes specific historical remarks about Newton, Einstein, but then tell us how human is Dr Nash and how sensible he is with his own environment. it is full of interesting details, his theory about games and probability is not as interesting as his personal life, and the way he had to deal with society, I appreciate all the effort to do this book, it took a lot of time to do it as I can see, from the psychological view, scientific and academic it is worth it. I am still learning so much from someone who wanted to share this gift with the world, it talks about religion too and this thin line between "craziness" and "genaility" Havent seen the movie yet but I will. Intense of a private life with similarities in the life of other genius, it is very well written, you are not going to believe all this details in just one Person, and how other's started to accept this gifted mind and how this gifted mind accepted his own self, it is wroth it... buy it now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
cannonball More than 1 year ago
There is warmth and humanity about this book that makes it must reading. John Nash himself, although never dull, is not particularly sympathetic even in the best of times. Nevertheless, as he slips into madness his peers continue to recognize him as the genius who made several important contributions to mathematics. They tolerate his eccentricities and offer him employment despite his debilitating illness. Ultimately, too, his family reconciles with him. Not only is this is an extraordinary journey into the rarified world of higher mathematics but it's a journey into mental illness, its fallout and treatment. PS, the movie, which I loved, pales beside the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book leads you inside the guy's mind.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What I like most about the abriged version is that it doesn't cut too much out. In fact, it adds something to the movie by explaining to the reader what the movie couldn't touch on. I would suggest to anyone who gets this-to make sure that they have enough time to finish it. (And yes, it is that involved).
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book for a school assignment on credibility, and although it's a great story, according to the criteria the teacher gave, this book is full of opinions, loaded words, and fallacies. However, it's still a great story of triumph.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book extremely engaging, but its most important contribution may be introducing mathematical concepts and life as a mathematician to those not trained in mathematics. A Beautiful Mind gives mathematics a human face.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i think that this is a great book its about the real people who can triumph over a serious disease