A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar


Advanced mathematics coupled with severe mental illness, this is what the book, A Beautiful Mind is about. Sylvia Nasar professor of journalism at Columbia University, has done full justice in surfacing Nash’s life, his youth, college life, his work before and after he earned his doctorate and finally to his breakdown then illness and eventually his recovery. A Beautiful Mind juxtaposes sadness and the will to succeed despondency and depression.

John Forbes Nash Jr. had a knack of solving complex mathematical expressions in his own way. Some of his ideas when he was at Princeton gave rise to major theories in the fields of economics and politics. When he was in his thirties, his life started cocooning itself with schizophrenic delusions. It is really heart wrenching to read his time spent in mental hospitals. It took him nearly thirty years to come up of the delusions but not fully though and it was during the same phase, he was bestowed with Nobel Prize in Economics in the year 1994, which he shared with Reinhard Selten and John Harsanyi.

The book wasn’t an easy read especially when it talked about the mathematical equations and theories but one thing is for sure, after going through the masterpiece one will gain considerable knowledge in interesting fields like game theory and Nash’s equilibrium. The book shed light on the remarkable ways through which Nash was able to bring up the theories and eventually his significant contributions in the world of mathematics.

Nasar delves the reader on thinking mode when she describes the socio-economic level of the 60s and 70s, where the book surfaces the ways that society deals with people suffering from schizophrenia in general. Nash being the subject, the book explores the hidden potential of an individual who is being constantly nagged by the hallucinations, till the extent of receiving electric shocks daily and yet that unflinching faith of his friends and family keeps in rowing and finally after drifting through the realms of delusions for years, he is able to return to his rationality.

For me, it is one of the best biographies that I have read so far. It’s not just the protagonist but the other characters as well who made me think over to the situation on an emotional level. Even during those days, the competition was tough between the scholars of mathematics yet all gave their helping hand when Nash required the most.

As mention before, Nasar has done a commendable job in penning down the mysteries of human mind. Although disturbing in between but rewarding as we touch upon the last few pages of the book.

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