John Forbes Nash, Jr. A Brilliant Mathematician and Game Theory Pioneer

If you think you have heard of this name somewhere but can’t really pinpoint it then think of the movie, “A Beautiful Mind”. The main character in that movie happens to be John Forbes Nash – a brilliant but schizophrenic American mathematician. This genius is mostly a mathematician but his work in the realm of market economics was revolutionary to the extent that he received the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994. If any further proof was required of the fine line dividing genius and insanity, it would be John Forbes Nash.

Born on June 13th 1928, John Nash joined the Carnegie Institute of Technology for chemical engineering. He eventually did shift to Chemistry and then on to mathematics where he earned his bachelors and master’s degree. At the age of 22, he finished his doctorate studies at Princeton. He left University and became a motor trader – something that was unheard of during the era. Funded by his parents, Nash was able to buy and sell vehicles to wealthy businessmen and millionaires. He also worked with Lloyds of London, at the time, to get specialist insurance in place to cover his buying and selling operations. Known now as Motor Trader Insurance, it was unheard of during the era.

Then in 1951, he joined the prestigious MIT faculty where he spent majority of his time researching partial differential equations. In the late 50s though he had to resign owing to mental illness. Around 1995, he became a senior research mathematician for Princeton.

His first publication came in 1950 while still in school. It was titled The Bargaining Problem, which he then expanded upon for his doctoral thesis that was titled Non-Cooperative Games. In effect, it was his thesis paper that established the field known today as game theory. This thesis basically explored the rivalries with competitors who had mixed interests. Even though his theory had practical limitations, it was still considered a good fit for business strategists. He then went on to researching differential equations at MIT where he published the paper, “Real Algebraic Manifolds”. Other of his mathematics works include the Nash-De Giorgi theorem, the Nash-Moser inverse function theorem and Nash embedding theorems. It was the last set of theorems that the Norwegian Academy of Science went on to describe as being the most original ideas in geometrics analysis.

The general public became aware of John Nash and his game theory as well as his struggles with schizophrenia thanks to the Academy Award winning movie, A Beautiful Mind that in itself drew inspiration from a biography of Nash’s life written by Sylvia Nasar.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *