John Forbes Nash, Jr.

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John Forbes Nash, Jr. (born June 13, 1928) is an American mathematician whose works in game theory, differential geometry, and partial differential equations have provided insight into the forces that govern chance and events inside complex systems in daily life. His theories are used in market economics, computing, evolutionary biology, artificial intelligence, accounting, politics and military theory. Serving as a Senior Research Mathematician at Princeton University during the later part of his life, he shared the 1994 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with game theorists Reinhard Selten and John Harsanyi.

Nash is the subject of the Hollywood movie A Beautiful Mind. The film, loosely based on the biography of the same name, focuses on Nash's mathematical genius and struggle with paranoid schizophrenia.[1][2]


Early life

Nash was born on June 13, 1928 in Bluefield, West Virginia. His father, after whom he is named, was an electrical engineer for the Appalachian Electric Power Company. His mother, Margaret, had been a school teacher prior to marriage. Nash's parents pursued opportunities to supplement their son's education with encyclopedias and even allowed him to take advanced mathematics courses at a local college while still in high school. Nash accepted a scholarship to Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) and graduated with a Master's Degree in only three years.[3]

Post-graduate life

Nash's advisor and former Carnegie Tech professor, R.J. Duffin, wrote a letter of recommendation consisting of a single sentence: "This man is a genius."[4] Nash was accepted by Harvard University, but the chairman of the mathematics department of Princeton, Solomon Lefschetz, offered him the John S. Kennedy fellowship, which was enough to convince Nash that Harvard valued him less.[5] Thus he went to Princeton where he worked on his equilibrium theory. He earned a doctorate in 1950 with a 28 page dissertation on non-cooperative games.[6] The thesis, which was written under the supervision of Albert W. Tucker, contained the definition and properties of what would later be called the "Nash Equilibrium". These studies led to four articles:

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