World loses John Nash, the 'Beautiful Mind'

Nash and wife, Alicia, die in New Jersey taxi accident

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A car accident in New Jersey has claimed the life of Nobel Prize-winning mathematician and subject of the book and movie A Beautiful Mind, John Forbes Nash.

The 86-year-old Nash was travelling with wife Alicia, 82, in a taxi that struck a guardrail on the New Jersey Turnpike. The couple were not wearing seat belts, according to this report from NJ.com, and were ejected from the vehicle.

His work on game theory, published in his slim 1950 PhD dissertation on non-cooperative games, won him the Nobel prize for economics in 1994 for what is now referred to as “Nash equilibrium”.

In March this year, Nash was awarded the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters' Abel Prize for work on partial differential equations, a prize he shared with Louis Nirenberg. He had just returned to the USA from Norway where he and Alicia had travelled to collect the prize.

In March, Nature explained the Nash-Nirenberg work on differential equations, noting that the work on partial differential equations is “widely considered more profound than the research in game theory”.

Personal equilibrium, however, escaped Nash. A 1959 diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia led to his long-term hospitalisation, and it was not until 1970 that he was released.

Nash married Alicia in 1957, but the couple divorced in the early 1960s. They remained in contact, however: after his discharge from hospital he lived in her house as a boarder, and over time they resumed their relationship, remarrying in 2001.

Nash's recovery also allowed him to eventually resume his academic career at Princeton University.

To the wider public, Nash only became famous because of Sylvia Nasar's 1998 biography A Beautiful Mind, made into a movie of the same name by Ron Howard in 2001, with Russell Crowe playing Nash.

Princeton University's president Christopher Eisgruber has expressed the university's shock, saying: "We are stunned and saddened by news of the untimely passing of John Nash and his wife and great champion, Alicia".

"John's remarkable achievements inspired generations of mathematicians, economists and scientists who were influenced by his brilliant, groundbreaking work in game theory, and the story of his life with Alicia moved millions of readers and moviegoers who marveled at their courage in the face of daunting challenges", the statement adds. ®

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