A Beautiful Mind Summary
A person born in Bluefield, in West Virginia state, John Nash showed himself to be introverted and quiet as a child. He preferred reading and carrying out his own experiments rather than playing with other children. He was fascinated by codes and intricate patterns. He was also fond of pranks. He intended to follow in his father’s footsteps and become and engineer. He received a scholarship to study at Carnegie Institute of Technology where he abandoned engineering after one year in order to study mathematics.
Not popular with his fellow students, he distinguished himself as being rather arrogant and odd. Even after he went on to study at Princeton he remained unpopular with his fellows. In spite of this, his teachers and tutors recognized his potential. Though he often was seen wandering around lost in thought, he was also seen as an eccentric scholar.
At Princeton Nash began conducting research in game theory. This led to his own emerging thought which emerged as “Nash’s Theorem.” This early work was seen as important, but it would not be for several years that his work was truly recognized, and he would receive the Nobel Prize.
Nash eventually took a position as a lecturer at MIT while also working as a consultant at the RAND Corporation. It was around this time that Nash experienced the first of several sexual relationships with men. He kept this a close secret, but this was also the first time he felt a connection with another person. This helped him to move out of his isolation. Not long after this, Nash began and intimate relationship with a nurse named Eleanor.
They conceived a child together, but Nash shocked Eleanor when a refused to support the child, suggesting that she put the child up for adoption. This is also the time that Nash embarked on a relationship with a mathematics student who was two years younger than he. This too was not a happy relationship, but it was another step in him coming out of his own isolation.
Eventually Nash was arrested for indecent exposure which led to his dismissal from the RAND Corporation. Rattled and set back by this experience, Nash nevertheless begins another relationship with an ex-student named Alicia. Alicia is smitten by Nash and pursues him enthusiastically. Nash continues to see both Eleanor and Alicia for some time, but he eventually marries Alicia.
They are happy for a while, but Nash’s mental state begins to seriously decline. He develops delusions, seeing patterns in things which really have no pattern. He becomes convinced he is receiving messages from aliens and foreign governments. He begins to write nonsensical letters to world leaders in which he warns them of coming catastrophes and threats to world peace.
Eventually, Nash is committed to a mental hospital where he is diagnosed as having paranoid schizophrenia. For the next several years he would be in and out of various clinics as he recovered, relapsed, and was taken back into mental hospitals. During this tumultuous time, he traveled to Europe and attempted to renounce his U.S. citizenship and declare himself a citizen of the world.
After years of this struggle, Alicia finally left him, overwhelmed with the struggle. With this Nash collapsed, delusional, and became wandering around Princeton scrawling incomprehensible messages on blackboards. The new students at Princeton refer to him as “the phantom” because of his disheveled and lost appearance.
By the 1990s Nash began to recover. Although he remained eccentric and odd, he returned some degree of health. He eventually moved back in with Alicia but they insist he is only a “boarder.” Nash develops a bond with Alicia’s son who is also beginning to show signs of schizophrenia. During this time of obscurity, his work began to be recognized by an emerging generation of economists. He eventually won the Nobel Prize for his research.
Nash’s mental health continued to improve, and he became more socially engaged. He began to forge relationships with people again. Soon after this, Nash and Alicia get married and he begins to develop strong ties to family and friends. He returns to his research with his mental health steadily improving. His isolation and alienation began to move toward a feature of his past.