John Nash: Madman Mathematician

Essay by jc14318University, Master'sA+, November 2004

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John Forbes Nash was born in Bluefield Sanatorium, West Virginia on the 13th of June, 1928. John showed much interest in books when he was young, shying away from play with other children. His mother encouraged this by seeing that he got good schooling, and also teaching him herself. Nash's teachers at school did not recognize his genius, but instead labeled him as backward because of his lack of social skills. We as educators now recognize that Nash was bored at school and had nothing to excite him into learning there. His primary learning was done at home.

Nash entered Bluefield College in West Virginia in 1941. He engaged in mathematics and science courses. His tendency towards mental illness showed here, although the signs were not noticed by others. Nash drew weird cartoons of classmates he disliked, enjoyed torturing animals and even once tried to electrocute his sister with a chair wired to batteries.

Nash won a scholarship in the George Westinghouse Competition and was accepted to the Carnegie Institute of Technology (Carnegie-Mellon University) intending to study chemical engineering. After taking several difficult mathematics courses, the head of the mathematics department persuaded him to become a mathematics specialist. Nash received a BA and an MA in mathematics in 1948. He had offers from Harvard, Princeton, Chicago and Michigan to study. Lefschetz offered him the most prestigious Fellowship that Princeton had, and Nash made a decision to study there.

In 1949, while studying at Princeton for his doctorate, Nash wrote the paper that would win him the Nobel Prize in economics in 1994. He established the mathematical principles for game theory, entitled "Non-cooperative Games", written when he was just 21 years old. After receiving his doctorate from Princeton, Nash went to work for the RAND Corporation, where his research made him...

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