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

by Sylvia Nasar

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Overview

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

In this powerful and dramatic biography Sylvia Nasar vividly recreates the life of a mathematical genius whose career was cut short by schizophrenia and who, after three decades of devastating mental illness, miraculously recovered and was honored with a Nobel Prize.

“How could you, a mathematician, believe that extraterrestrials were sending you messages?” the visitor from Harvard asked the West Virginian with the movie-star looks and Olympian manner. “Because the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way my mathematical ideas did,” came the answer. “So I took them seriously.”

Thus begins the true story of John Nash, the mathematical genius who was a legend by age thirty when he slipped into madness, and who—thanks to the selflessness of a beautiful woman and the loyalty of the mathematics community—emerged after decades of ghostlike existence to win a Nobel Prize for triggering the game theory revolution. The inspiration for an Academy Award–winning movie, Sylvia Nasar’s now-classic biography is a drama about the mystery of the human mind, triumph over adversity, and the healing power of love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781451628425
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 07/12/2011
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 127,326
Product dimensions: 9.20(w) x 6.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Sylvia Nasar is the author of the bestselling A Beautiful Mind, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography. She is the John S. and James. L Knight Professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

Read an Excerpt

John Forbes Nash, Jr. mathematical genius, inventor of a theory of rational behavior, visionary of the thinking machine had been sitting with his visitor, also a mathematician, for nearly half an hour. It was late on a weekday afternoon in the spring of 1959, and, though it was only May, uncomfortably warm. Nash was slumped in an armchair in one corner of the hospital lounge, carelessly dressed in a nylon shirt that hung limply over his unbelted trousers. His powerful frame was slack as a rag doll's, his finely molded features expressionless. He had been staring dully at a spot immediately in front of the left foot of Harvard professor George Mackey, hardly moving except to brush his long dark hair away from his forehead in a fitful, repetitive motion. His visitor sat upright, oppressed by the silence, acutely conscious that the doors to the room were locked. Mackey finally could contain himself no longer. His voice was slightly querulous, but he strained to be gentle. "How could you," began Mackey, "how could you, a mathematician, a man devoted to reason and logical proof...how could you believe that extraterrestrials are sending you messages? How could you believe that you are being recruited by aliens from outer space to save the world? How could you...?"

Nash looked up at last and fixed Mackey with an unblinking stare as cool and dispassionate as that of any bird or snake. "Because," Nash said slowly in his soft, reasonable southern drawl, as if talking to himself, "the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way that my mathematical ideas did. So I took them seriously."

The young genius from Bluefield, West Virginia handsome, arrogant, and highly eccentric burst onto the mathematical scene in 1948. Over the next decade, a decade as notable for its supreme faith in human rationality as for its dark anxieties about mankind's survival, Nash proved himself, in the words of the eminent geometer Mikhail Gromov, "the most remarkable mathematician of the second half of the century." Games of strategy, economic rivalry, computer architecture, the shape of the universe, the geometry of imaginary spaces, the mystery of prime numbers all engaged his wide-ranging imagination. His ideas were of the deep and wholly unanticipated kind that pushes scientific thinking in new directions.

Table of Contents

Contents
Prologue
Part One: A Beautiful Mind
1 Bluefield (1928-45)
2 Carnegie Institute of Technology (June 1945-June 1948)
3 The Center of the Universe (Princeton, Fall 1948)
4 School of Genius (Princeton, Fall 1948)
5 Genius (Princeton, 1948-49)
6 Games (Princeton, Spring 1949.)
7 John von Neumann (Princeton, 1948-49)
8 The Theory of Games
9 The Bargaining Problem (Princeton, Spring 1949)
10 Nash's Rival Idea (Princeton, 1949-50)
11 Lloyd (Princeton, 1950)
12 The War of Wits (RAND, Summer 1950)
13 Game Theory at RAND
14 The Draft (Princeton, 195O-51)
15 A Beautiful Theorem (Princeton, 1950-51)
16 MIT
17 Bad Boys
18 Experiments (RAND, Summer 1952)
19 Reds (Spring 1953)
20 Geometry
Part Two: Separate Lives
21 Singularity
22 A Special Friendship (Santa Monica, Summer 1952)
23 Eleanor
24 Jack
25 The Arrest (RAND, Summer 1954)
26 Alicia
27 The Courtship
28 Seattle (Summer 1956)
29 Death and Marriage (1956-57)
Part Three: A Slow Fire Burning
30 Olden Lane and Washington Square (1956-57)
31 The Bomb Factory
32 Secrets (Summer 1958)
33 Schemes (Fall 1958)
34 The Emperor of Antarctica
35 In the Eye of the Storm (Spring 1959)
36 Day-Breaks in Bowditch Hall (McLean Hospital, April-May, 1959)
37 Mad Hatter's Tea (May-June 1959)
Part Four: The Lost Years
38 Citoyen du Monde (Paris and Geneva, 1959-60)
39 Absolute Zero (Princeton, 1960)
40 Tower of Silence (Trenton State Hospital, 1961)
41 An Interlude of Enforced Rationality (July 1961-April 1963)
42 The "Blowing Up" Problem (Princeton and Carrier Clinic, 1963-65)
43 Solitude (Boston, 1965-67)
44 A Man All Alone in a Strange World (Roanoke, 1967-70)
45 Phantom of Fine Hall (Princeton, 1970s)
46 A Quiet Life (Princeton, 1970-90)
Part Five: The Most Worthy
47 Remission
48 The Prize
49 The Greatest Auction Ever (Washington, D.C., December 1994)
50 Reawakening (Princeton, 1995-97)
Notes
Select Bibliography
Acknowledgments
Index

What People are Saying About This

Timothy Ferris

Every once in a while there appears a book on science that mirrors the splendor of its subject. Sylvia Nasar's A Beautiful Mind is such a book -- an eloquent, heartbreaking, and heartwarming tale.

Oliver Sacks

A splendid book, deeply interesting and extraordinarily moving, remarkable for its sympathetic insights into both genius and schizophrenia.

David Herbert Donald

A brilliant book -- at once a powerful and moving biography of a great mathematical genius and an important contribution to American intellectual history.

Customer Reviews

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A Beautiful Mind 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 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
AFTER SEEING THE MOVIE 'A BEAUTIFUL MIND' TWO TIMES, I WAS ANXIOUS TO READ THE BOOK. THE BOOK TELLS THE TRUE STORY OF JOHN NASH JR. WHO IN ACTUALITY I FOUND VERY DIFFICULT TO LIKE. HE IS A CRUEL PERSON IN MANY WAYS, WHICH THE MOVIE DOES NOT PORTRAY. THE INCESSANT MATHEMATICAL DISCUSSIONS, I FOUND DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND. IT IS ALSO HARD FOR ME TO FATHOM, THAT JOHN WAS NOT DIAGNOSED AS MENTALLY ILL UNTIL AGE 30.
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.
Ix0x0L on LibraryThing 5 days ago
This book was great. I am very partial to any writing that accurately depicts mental illness. The story of John Nash is so intriging. The book was very well researched.
ejp1082 on LibraryThing 10 days ago
There aren't many biographies that have interested me, and there are even fewer that I would highly reccomend. This is one of them.This is a terrific book that covers an absolutely fascinating subject. The story of John Nash's life is at once amazing, profound, and inspirational.It's certainly one of those cases where the movie falls far short in comparison; this novel covers his work, his genius, and his painful descent into madness with a depth that shows the movie barely scratched the surface.
Anonymous 9 months ago
A beautiful book about a tortured genius. Although a bit slow in parts, Nash comes alive.
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.
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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.
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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).