Sylvia Nasar offers one of the literary surprises of the year, which should appeal to a wide audience. A Beautiful Mind recounts achievement and tragedy in a tale of compassion, redemption, and the ultimate triumph of the human intellect over adversity. It is also a fine piece of science writing.
In her well-crafted and meticulously researched saga, Nasar depicts Nash's meteoric rise to one of the most eminent mathematicians of our time. He was brash, young, ambitious, and original, in both his professional and his private lives. He startled the mathematical establishment with a sequence of profound discoveries reached by very creative and highly unorthodox methods.
Yet, there is a dark side to this tale of glittering youthful success. By the time he was 30, Nash began to display disturbing signs of a mental instability which rapidly led to a complete destruction of his life.
The author poignantly chronicles Nash's slide from eccentricity into madness diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia. For 30 wasted years, he endured repeated hospitalizations with failed treatments. Although his name was prominent in scientific journals, Nash was clouded in obscurity. Many assumed him dead with only the cognoscenti aware of his existence.
Miraculously, his family, friends, and colleagues who had staunchly stood by him observed that Nash, as though awakening from a deep and troubled sleep, began to emerge from his dementia. He began to manifest signs of heightened awareness and competence and to regain his former mental acuity. The chronicle of his continued recovery is perhaps as startling as the record of his scientific discoveries.
A Beautiful Mind is a major contribution to modern intellectual history. It is also a moving biography of a mathematical giant which offers captivating insights into both genius and madness.
Dr. Fitzgibbon is professor of mathematics at the University of Houston. Copyright 1999 BookPage Reviews
Library Journal Reviews 1998 May
During the 1970s and 1980s, John Forbes Nash Jr. wandered the Princeton campus, where he had once taught, a gaunt, disheveled figure mocked by students and pitied by faculty. At 21, before the onset of his schizophrenia, Nash developed a brilliant theorem that revolutionized mathematics and economics. Within a decade, though, he had become delusional, and 30 years would pass before he would recover his mind. In 1994, his early work was recognized with a Nobel prize. Drawing extensively from interviews with people close to Nash, Nasar, an economics reporter for the New York Times, explores the rare, extraordinary, and fragile nature of his genius. An engrossing, ultimately uplifting book for all libraries.AGregg Sapp, Univ. of Miami Lib., Coral Gables, FL Copyright 1998 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal Reviews 1999 March #1
John Forbes Nash's mathematical research would eventually win him a Nobel prize, but only after he recovered from decades of mental illness. Nasar tells a story of triumph, tragedy, and enduring love. (LJ 5/15/98) Copyright 1999 Library Journal Reviews
Publishers Weekly Reviews 1998 May #2
Nasar has written a notable biography of mathematical genius John Forbes Nash (b. 1928), a founder of game theory, a RAND Cold War strategist and winner of a 1994 Nobel Prize in economics. She charts his plunge into paranoid schizophrenia beginning at age 30 and his spontaneous recovery in the early 1990s after decades of torment. He attributes his remission to will power; he stopped taking antipsychotic drugs in 1970 but underwent a half-dozen involuntary hospitalizations. Born in West Virginia, the flamboyant mathematical wizard rubbed elbows at Princeton and MIT with Einstein, John von Neumann and Norbert Wiener. He compartmentalized his secret personal life, shows Nasar, hiding his homosexual affairs with colleagues from his mistress, a nurse who bore him a son out of wedlock, while he also courted Alicia Larde, an MIT physics student whom he married in 1957. Their son, John, born in 1959, became a mathematician and suffers from episodic schizophrenia. Alicia divorced Nash in 1963, but they began living together again as a couple around 1970. Today Nash, whose mathematical contributions span cosmology, geometry, computer architecture and international trade, devotes himself to caring for his son. Nasar, an economics correspondent for the New York Times, is equally adept at probing the puzzle of schizophrenia and giving a nontechnical context for Nash's mathematical and scientific ideas. (June)