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A Beautiful Mind: Genius and Schizophrenia in the Life of John Nash - Softcover

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9780571197187: A Beautiful Mind: Genius and Schizophrenia in the Life of John Nash
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At the age of 21, a brilliant and highly eccentric graduate student made a major contribution to game theory: John Nash had discovered an influential theory of rational human behaviour. But ten years later, at the peak of a dazzling mathematical career and soon after his marriage to a physicist, Nash suffered a breakdown. Diagnosed a schizophrenic, he was beset by bizarre delusions, unable to work, and repeatedly incarcerated in mental hospitals. He spent most of the next three decades as a silent, ghost-like figure haunting the Princeton campus. Then, when he was 61 and all but forgotten, a dramatic remission of his illness and the Nobel Prize committee's decision to honour his achievements restored the world to him. His story is told in this book by an author who is intimately familiar with the academic world that Nash has occupied. She wrote it with the backing of Princeton and Nash's friends and colleagues.

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Review:
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 maths 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 descended into schizophrenia in the 1950s. His most important work had been in game theory, which by the 1980s was underpinning much current economic theory. 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 Prize 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

Review:
Oliver Sacks Deeply interesting and extraordinarily moving.

"The New York Times" Reads like a fine novel.

"The Boston Globe" Superbly written and eminently fascinating.

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  • PublisherFaber & Faber
  • Publication date1999
  • ISBN 10 0571197183
  • ISBN 13 9780571197187
  • BindingPaperback
  • Number of pages464
  • Rating
    4.13 avg rating
    ( 132,010 ratings by Goodreads )
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