John F. Nash Jr. *50, the Nobel Prize-winning mathematician whose struggle with severe mental illness was portrayed in a book and popular film, both titled A Beautiful Mind, died May 23 when the taxi that was bringing him home from an awards ceremony crashed on the New Jersey Turnpike. His wife, Alicia, also died.
The Nashes were returning from Norway, where John Nash had shared this year’s Abel Prize, one of the world’s top honors in mathematics, for his work on partial differential equations. He was 86.
Nash shared the Nobel Prize in economics in 1994 for developing an equilibrium concept for non-cooperative games, later called the Nash equilibrium.
Today it is used throughout the social sciences and in other fields.
In 1995, Nash joined Princeton’s mathematics department as a senior research mathematician. He took part in many University activities, including a celebration of his Abel award at a reception in March. Over the years, students often saw him in Fine Hall, at various coffee shops, or on his bicycle on campus. Few knew what he had accomplished.
“John’s remarkable achievements inspired generations of mathematicians, economists, and scientists who were influenced by his brilliant, groundbreaking work in game theory,” President Eisgruber ’83 said in a statement, “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.”
Another tribute to Nash, a handwritten note taped to the entrance of Fine Hall, expressed thanks “for all your brilliant gifts to mankind, your ‘equilibrium’ and certainly your beautiful mind. ... The likes of your mastery of mathematics; your wizardry of innovation and your breathtakingly abstract thinking, will never pass this way, on this Earth, again.”