John Nash, the genius portrayed in A Beautiful Mind, killed in car crash, ejected without safety belts
John Nash, a Nobel Prize winner whose life was made into a hit movie, dies along with his wife
Associated Press in Trenton
John Nash visited Polytechnic University in Hong Kong in 2009. Photo: Ricky Chung
John Nash, a mathematical genius whose struggle with schizophrenia was chronicled in the 2001 movie A Beautiful Mind, has died along with his wife in a car crash on the New Jersey Turnpike. He was 86.
Nash and Alicia Nash, 82, of Princeton Township, were killed in a taxi crash on Saturday, police said. A colleague who had received an award with Nash in Norway earlier in the week said they had just flown home and the couple had taken a cab home from the airport.
Russell Crowe, who portrayed Nash in A Beautiful Mind, tweeted that he was “stunned”.
“An amazing partnership,” he wrote. “Beautiful minds, beautiful hearts.”
Known as brilliant and eccentric, Nash was associated with Princeton University for many years, most recently serving as a senior research mathematician. He won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1994 for his work in game theory, which offered insight into the dynamics of human rivalry. It is considered one of the most influential ideas of the 20th century.
Just a few days ago, Nash had received a prize from the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters in Oslo with New York University mathematician Louis Nirenberg, who said he’d chatted with the couple for an hour at the airport in Newark before they’d got a cab. Nirenberg said Nash was a truly great mathematician and “a kind of genius”.
Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber said the Nashes were special members of the university community.
“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 marvelled at their courage in the face of daunting challenges,” Eisgruber said.
New Jersey State Police say the Nashes were both ejected from the cab in the crash around 4.30pm on Saturday in Monroe Township, about 24 kilometres northeast of Trenton. The cab driver was admitted to hospital.
News of the deaths was shocking to Nirenberg. “We were all so happy together,” he said. “It seemed like a dream.”
John David Stier, Nash’s son with his first wife, said he learned of the death yesterday morning. “It’s very upsetting,” he said.
In an autobiography written for The Nobel Foundation website, Nash said delusions caused him to resign as a faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also spent several months in New Jersey hospitals on an involuntary basis.
However, Nash’s schizophrenia diminished through the 1970s and 1980s as he “gradually began to intellectually reject some of the delusionally influenced lines of thinking,” he wrote.
John Nash at the Oscars in 2002.
The 2001 film A Beautiful Mind won 4 Oscars, including best picture and best director. The movie was based on an unauthorised biography by Sylvia Nasar, who wrote that Nash’s contemporaries found him “immensely strange”. Crowe was nominated for best actor, while Jennifer Connelly, who portrayed Alicia Nash, won best supporting actress.
His mental illness began emerging in 1959 when Alicia was pregnant with a son. The film, though, did not mention Nash’s older son or the years that he and Alicia spent living together after divorcing. The couple split in 1963, then resumed living together several years later and finally remarried in 2001.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as A Beautiful Mind mathematician killed in car crash
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 May, 2015, 10:32pm
UPDATED : Monday, 25 May, 2015, 2:56am
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The movie A Beutiful Mind based on John Nash dramatized the effects and created a greater awareness of schizophrenia, paranoia, and mental illness.