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  • Michael Braccia

Book Review: 'A Beautiful Mind' by Sylvia Nasar

Updated: Aug 4, 2019

On 23rd May 2015, John Forbes Nash and his wife, Alicia, were killed in a car crash while in a taxi in New Jersey, United States.

Sylvia Nasar’s award-winning biography of John Nash describes the life of a genius. He was ultimately awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economic Sciences in 1994, but for most of his life he was plagued by mental illness. At the age of 31, he suffered a devastating breakdown and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

The book explores the intricacies of mathematics and the tragedy of the condition that John suffered. The story is not for everyone, but it is beyond doubt a fascinating insight into the life of a man who rubbed shoulders with Albert Einstein and John Von Neumann and other famous scientists.

How must his wife have felt when taking the terrible decision to have John taken to a mental hospital against his will? Based on interviews, Nasar describes how it was for John:

'Later Nash would recall, with great bitterness, the fact that he was assigned a serial number at Trenton, as if he were an inmate of a prison. To occupy a room shared by thirty or forty others, to be forced to wear clothes that are not your own, to have no place, not even a locker, for your things, even your own soap or shaving cream, is an experience that few people can imagine. Yet this is how Nash - a man who craved, because of his nature and the nature of his illness, solitude and mobility - lived for the next six months, surrounded by strangers.'

Superbly written text, albeit for a limited market.

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