At the age of thirty-one, John Nash, mathematical genius, suffered a devastating breakdown and was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Yet after decades of leading a ghost-like existence, he was to re-emerge to win a Nobel Prize and world acclaim.
The inspiration for a major motion picture directed by Ron Howard, Sylvia Nasar's award-winning biography is a drama about the mystery of the human mind, a triumph over incredible adversity, and the healing power of love.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 464 pages, 8pp b&w illustrations
- Publisher: Faber & Faber
- Publication Date: 04/02/2002
- Category: Biography: general
- ISBN: 9780571212927
Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.
Review by Ix0x0L
This book was great. I am very partial to any writing that accurately depicts mental illness. The story of John Nash is so intriging. The book was very well researched.
Review by melydia
This is another book I picked up because I liked the movie. I liked the book, too, but was a little disappointed to learn how little resemblance there is between the two. For example, neither Nash's college roommate nor his tendency to draw on windows were mentioned in the book, while Nash's homosexuality and illegitimate son were left out of the movie. Once I realized that there was such a huge disparity, however, I was able to appreciate them as separate works. This biography of mathematician John Nash, Nobel Laureate and recovered schizophrenic, was simply fascinating. It manages a balance between the mathematics and the insanity without becoming either too dry or too sensationalist. I kind of wish there had been a cast of characters listing somewhere to keep all the names straight, but by and large I had no trouble following it. In short, I enjoyed it. However, if you're just looking for a glimpse inside the mind of a schizophrenic, give this one a pass. Nash's specific delusions are not described in depth, and most of the information is secondhand anyway. That said, I would recommend it to people who love a good biography, especially one that reads almost like a novel.
Review by soniaandree
Contrary to what the movie may lead people to believe, the book does not concentrate on John Nash's life. Instead, it is a very good presentation of the scientific and mathematical developments of the time. It was a golden age of sciences and discovery, the start of many modern scientific subjects. Nash is shown to participate in this golden age, while his troubled personality makes him an interesting character.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.
Review by ecw0647
"'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.'"<br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>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."<br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>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.