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A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical…

A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John… (original 1998; edition 2001)

by Sylvia Nasar

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Title:A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash
Authors:Sylvia Nasar
Info:Simon & Schuster (2001), Edition: Reissue, Paperback
Collections:Your library

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A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar (1998)



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Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
Sylvia Nasar's biography of John Nash tells the story of this mathematical genius with precision, excellent scholarship and attention to background details that puts the motivations and actions of this man in the context of the time in which he was most active. She describes Cold War politics and McCarthyism, both of which had profound effects on mathematicians and physicists during the 50s, 60s and 70s. So why am I giving this book only 3 stars? Well, quite frankly, I didn't like the man! As we all know from the movie (which I actually haven't seen), he becomes schizophrenic, which occurs half way through the book. Before that, he was an insecure, arrogant tyrant who belittled anyone whose intellect did not measure up to his standards. Although blessed with positions at some of our most prestigious institutions, he was an indifferent teacher at best and a nasty one on the bad days. I kept thinking, "why do I have to wait for him to become schizophrenic (in the second half of the book) to develop empathy for this guy?" However that was the case. I certainly have enjoyed books about far worse people (e.g. Adolf Eichmann). I guess the way he treated his lovers, wife and children really got to me. Nevertheless, the book is really an excellent biography, well-researched and worth reading. Also, the story of him recovering his intellectual abilities, conquering schizophrenia as well as winning a Nobel Prize and reestablishing a life with his loved ones is very inspiring and redeeming. ( )
  krazy4katz | Apr 2, 2014 |
Reality, as reflected in this book, and the story told on film were actually quite different. I think that the true stories from the book were far more interesting than those chosen to be shown on film. In this case, people interested in John Nash are doing themselves a tremendous disservice if they skip the book in favour of the film. ( )
  ScribbleKey | Jan 10, 2014 |
"'How could you,' Mackey asked, 'how could you, a mathematician, a man devoted to reason and logical proof. . . how could you believe that extra terrestrials are sending you messages? How could you believe that you are being recruited by aliens from outer space to save the world? How could you . . .?' "Nash looked up at last and fixed Mackey with an unblinking stare as cool and dispassionate as that of any bird or snake. 'Because,' Nash said slowly in his soft, reasonable southern drawl, as if talking to himself, 'the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way that my mathematical ideas did. So I took them seriously.'"

A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar is the biography of John Forbes Nash. Nash was brilliant. (The movie was terrific, but often bore little resemblance to reality.) At twenty-one he had invented a theory of modern human behavior and his contributions to game theory would ultimately win him a Nobel Prize. As a young professor he solved some mathematical problems deemed "impossible" by other mathematicians. He also became insane. This most fascinating book is the story of his descent into schizophrenia and his sudden remission at age sixty-two.

Nash had that spark of genius reserved for the extraordinary few. He could visualize answers to problems that baffled others, often working out proofs later. He worked and learned not by absorbing what others had already accomplished but by rediscovering the concepts on his own. He was "compulsively rational," and envied the emotionless, considering thinking machines superior to humans. He remained aloof from the mundane and was described by his contemporaries as "queer," "spooky," and "isolated." Ironically, he was to revolutionize the theories of social cooperation and conflict. Unlike Von Neumann who had focused on the group, Nash, in his twenty-seven-page dissertation thesis proposed a theory for game "in which there was a possibility of mutual gain. His insight was that the game [economics:] would be solved when every player independently chose his best responses to the other player's best strategies. . . a decentralized decision-making process could, in fact, be coherent."

Princeton probably deserves the Nobel medal as much as anyone for sticking with the genius and putting up with his bizarre behavior as does his family who often sacrificed a great deal in their efforts to help him. Whether an "ordinary" person would have received such special care is perhaps another issue.

What is truly ironic is that Nash's son suffers from the same condition as his father, but despite advances in pharmaceutical treatment for schizophrenia, his son has not displayed the signs of remission that brought his father back. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
overall good book - winds around a little too much sometimes and is a little hard to follow in parts but decent story. ( )
  marshapetry | Sep 2, 2013 |
A fascinating look into the way mental illness affects everyone in shooting range and into the fine line between a beautiful mind which thinks in ways no one else can understand and a hideous mind that thinks in ways no one else can understand. ( )
1 vote Narshkite | May 6, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
Sylvia Nasar, an economics correspondent for the New York Times, presents the life "without theory" of John Forbes Nash Jr., a mathematical genius and inventor of theories of rational behavior, who was a Wunderkind at Princeton when it was populated by the likes of Albert Einstein, John von Neumann and other 20th century luminaries.
added by mikeg2 | editSalon, Richard Dooling (Jun 29, 1998)

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nasar, Sylviaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hansen-Schmidt, AnjaTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Plieninger, CäcilieTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fields, AnnaReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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John Forbes Nash, Jr. - mathematical genius, inventor of a theory of rational behavior, visionary of the thinking machine - had been sitting with his visitor, also a mathematician, for nearly half an hour.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743224574, Paperback)

Stories of famously eccentric Princetonians abound--such as that of chemist Hubert Alyea, the model for The Absent-Minded Professor, or Ralph Nader, said to have had his own key to the library as an undergraduate. Or the "Phantom of Fine Hall," a figure many students had seen shuffling around the corridors of the math and physics building wearing purple sneakers and writing numerology treatises on the blackboards. The Phantom was John Nash, one of the most brilliant mathematicians of his generation, who had spiraled into schizophrenia in the 1950s. His most important work had been in game theory, which by the 1980s was underpinning a large part of economics. When the Nobel Prize committee began debating a prize for game theory, Nash's name inevitably came up--only to be dismissed, since the prize clearly could not go to a madman. But in 1994 Nash, in remission from schizophrenia, shared the Nobel Prize in economics for work done some 45 years previously.

Economist and journalist Sylvia Nasar has written a biography of Nash that looks at all sides of his life. She gives an intelligent, understandable exposition of his mathematical ideas and a picture of schizophrenia that is evocative but decidedly unromantic. Her story of the machinations behind Nash's Nobel is fascinating and one of very few such accounts available in print (the CIA could learn a thing or two from the Nobel committees). This highly recommended book is indeed "a story about the mystery of the human mind, in three acts: genius, madness, reawakening." --Mary Ellen Curtin

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:48 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

The true story of John Nash, the math genius who was a legend by age thirty when he slipped into madness; through the selflessness of a beautiful woman and the loyalty of the mathematics community he emerged after decades of ghostlike existence to win a Nobel Prize; now a major motion picture--Cover.… (more)

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