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John Nash, ‘Beautiful Mind’ Mathematician, Dead at 86

Nobel Prize winner and his wife Alicia killed in car accident

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BEIJING, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 28: (CHINAOUT) American mathematician John Forbes Nash looks onduring day one of the 2011 Nobel Laureates Beijing Forum at the National Museum on September 28, 2011 in Beijing, China. The 2011 Nobel Laureates Beijing Forum will kick off on September 28 and last to September 30 with the theme of Innovation and Development. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)

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John Forbes Nash Jr., a Nobel Prize-winning mathematician and inspiration for A Beautiful Mind, died in a May 23rd car accident that also took the life of his wife Alicia. John Nash was 86 and Alicia Nash was 82. Nash’s struggle with paranoid schizophrenia, as well as his wife’s fortitude in confronting the disorder, was the basis for the Academy Award-winning film.

According to NJ.com, the Nashes were in the backseat of a taxi driving southbound on the New Jersey Turnpike Saturday when the driver lost control of the taxi and crashed into the guardrail, ejecting the Nashes from the vehicle. “It doesn’t appear that they were wearing seatbelts,” State Police Sgt. Gregory Williams said. The taxi driver was flown to a nearby hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Over the course of his illustrious, accolade-filled career, Nash taught at both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton University, Nash’s alma mater. It was at MIT that Nash first exhibited signs of schizophrenia. Nash’s decade-long struggle with the disease resulted in the mathematician resigning from his post at MIT and ultimately the Nashes’ divorce; in 2001, 38 years later, they would remarry. After receiving treatment to rein in his disorder, Nash began teaching at Princeton, where he accomplished some of his greatest contributions to the field of mathematics and game theory.

Nash received the John von Neumann Theory Prize in 1978, and in 1994 was award the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work in game theory. A week prior to his death, Nash, along with Louis Nirenberg, was given the Abel Prize, one of the most prestigious mathematic awards, at a ceremony in Norway for their “striking and seminal contributions to the theory of nonlinear partial differential equations and its applications to geometric analysis.” The Nashes also became mental illness advocates after their son, mathematician John Charles Martin Nash, was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Director Ron Howard’s critically acclaimed adaptation of A Beautiful Mind, based on the Sylvia Nasar-penned Nash biography of the same name, was nominated for eight Oscars at the 2002 Academy Awards, winning for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Connelly, who played Alicia Nash in the film). Russell Crowe was also nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Nash in the film.

Following news of Nash’s death, Crowe tweeted, “Stunned…my heart goes out to John & Alicia & family. An amazing partnership. Beautiful minds, beautiful hearts.”

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