At the height of his fame, Nash suffered a catastrophic mental breakdown and began a harrowing descent into insanity, resigning his post at MIT, slipping into a series of bizarare delusions, and eventually becoming a dreamy, ghostlike figure at Princeton, scrawling numerological messages on blackboards. He was all but forgotten by the outside world - until, remarkably, he emerged from his madness to win world acclaim.
This is a terrific book that covers an absolutely fascinating subject. The story of John Nash's life is at once amazing, profound, and inspirational.
It's certainly one of those cases where the movie falls far short in comparison; this novel covers his work, his genius, and his painful descent into madness with a depth that shows the movie barely scratched the surface.
This book is amazing to me. I read it not too long ago and loved everything about it.
I would recommed all my students to read this and then we would watch the movie in class together and find all the literary elements in it.
I was very impressed with how the mathematicians Nash worked with rallied behind him and kept him intellectually alive through the course of his illness (for thirty years!). But, I can’t even imagine the anguish of his wife who had to cope with Nash and then with their own brilliant son succumbing to the same disease even earlier in life than her husband. Naser’s research into schizophrenia and the available treatments was interesting as well.
What was done with mentally ill people in the fifties and sixties chills your blood though.
I really enjoyed the book, and recommend it to anyone with interest in science. The movie, on the other hand, was a sheer disappointment that had very little in common with Nash, or the book.
At first glance, a biography of a mathematician would seem to make for a read dryer than the Sahara. However, John Nash is no ordinary mathematician and Sylvia Nasar is no ordinary biographer. In her capable hands, the life of John Nash comes to life…in all of its brilliant, dark, pessimistic, extraordinary, callous wonder.
John Forbes Nash, Jr. is a mathematical genius whose extraordinary mind developed the structure for what became known as Game Theory – revolutionizing both mathematics and economics in the second half of the twentieth century. The power of his theories culminated with him being awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics nearly fifty years after his groundbreaking work began. But it came at a heavy price. By the age of thirty, Nash was suffering from his first bouts of paranoid schizophrenia, a disease he would suffer with for three decades. He was institutionalized by his family on several occasions and left for dead by most of the mathematics community.
Left to wander the campus of Princeton University as a “ghost” and a “crazy man,” Nash did the unthinkable – he began recovering from a disease that there was thought to be no recovery from. He even begin to work on mathematics research again. It was a recovery that physiatrists thought was impossible.
A Beautiful Mind is really not about mathematics, but about what it means to be labeled “gifted,” “different” or “sick.” It is about how society treats people who are unusual and how few answers there are for what goes on between someone’s ears. It is also about John’s wife Alicia, who set aside her own desires to try to guide John through a world that had become hostile to him.
Ultimately, Sylvia Nasar succeeds with A Beautiful Mind because she leaves out most of the heavy-handed mathematics and focuses on who John Nash is and what his life represents. Make no mistake, John Nash not a lovable person. He is rude, thoughtless, self-centered and egotistical – all the things we don’t like in a person. His genius is both a gift and a curse.
Yet, we cheer for him the whole way because there is an innocence about him; a childlike quality of someone who doesn’t quite understand other people but has to function within society none-the-less. And it is a society of the 1950s and 1960s with little understanding or tolerance for mental illness. His story also gives us hope that no matter how hopeless a person’s situation may seem, here is an example of someone who was able to climb out of that hole and rejoin life and be happy again. That is what makes John Nash’s story so important – it demonstrates that anyone’s life can be turned around. It demonstrates hope. It demonstrates redemption. It is a story well worth your time.
"A legend by the age of thirty, recognized as a mathematical genius even as he slipped into madness, John Nash emerged after decades of ghostlike existence to win a Nobel Prize and world acclaim." ~ from cover of book
Though not a good selection for someone looking for a quick and light read, A Beautiful Mind is an intense biography of John F. Nash, Jr., a mathematician who rubbed elbows with the likes of John von Neumann and Albert Einstein. His arrogance was outweighed by his eccentric genius, which eventually won him a Nobel Prize in economics.
Before this award, however, Nash slowly lost his grip with reality and, by his thirties, fell into full-blown schizophrenia.
I have no particular interest in the field of mathematics. Nevertheless, I found this biography fascinating and poignant despite its occasional slow parts. Perhaps because biographies/autobiographies deal with the lives of real people, I overlook the "slow parts" by simply remembering that I am a voyeur into someone's life. Now that I have read the book, I have added the movie starring Russell Crowe to the top of my Netflix queue :)
It is a good read if you want to know about the era of sciences and economics; also, it can open some discussions about the scientists of the time, their research groups, the ideas behind some theories. The book is very well written, easy to read (for the lay reader) and is general enough that it doesn't swamp the reader with data and numbers - this is still a (mostly) bibliographical novel, after all.
This is, by the way, the basis of the movie of the same name. I saw that long enough ago that I don't remember much about it, but I understand that the movie did fudge a number of details and leave quite a few things out. I'm thinking perhaps I ought to watch it again to compare.