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Nash, John (1928-2015)


John Nash Undergraduate Photo, Princeton University Library
John Nash as an Princeton University undergraduate. Princeton University Library (copyright unknown)

Noted mathematician John Nash, Jr. (1928-2015) received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1950. The impact of his 27 page dissertation on the fields of mathematics and economics was tremendous. In 1951 he joined the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. His battle with schizophrenia began around 1958, and the struggle with this illness would continue for much of his life. Nash eventually returned to the community of Princeton. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1994. The 2001 film A Beautiful Mind, staring Russell Crowe, was loosely based on the life of Nash.

  • John Nash's Dissertation

    Non-cooperative Games, May 1950, is available in PDF format Non-Cooperative_Games_Nash.pdf. The dissertation is provided for research use only. 

    [Note: Chapter 6 of The Essential John Nash, edited by Harold W. Kuhn and Sylvia Nasar (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2001) contains a facsimile of Nash's 1950 Ph.D. dissertation on non-cooperative games.]

    In the movie A Beautiful Mind there is a scene in which faculty members present their pens to Nash. What is the origin of the pen ceremony? When did it start?

    The scene in the movie, A Beautiful Mind, in which mathematics professors ritualistically present pens to Nash was completely fabricated in Hollywood. No such custom exists. What it symbolizes is that Nash was accepted and recognized in the mathematics community for his accomplishments. While some movies are based on books, the film A Beautiful Mind states that it was inspired by the life of John Nash. There are many discrepancies between the book and the film.

    May I see Nash’s graduate school records?

    John F. Nash, Jr's records have been digitzed and are available to view here: Graduate Alumni Records

    May I see Nash’s faculty file personnel records?

    Personnel files transferred to the archives after 2003: Files are closed until 100 years after the person's year of birth or 5 years after the person's year of death, whichever is longer. Therefore, John F. Nash's personell files are closed until, June 13, 2028.

    May I have a copy of Nash’s 1994 Nobel Prize acceptance speech?

    At the Nobel Prize Award ceremony, His Majesty the King of Sweden hands each Laureate a diploma, a medal, and a document confirming the Prize amount. The Laureates do not give acceptance speeches. The scene in the movie A Beautiful Mind in which Nash thanks his wife Alicia for her continued support during his illness is fictional.

    Laureates are each invited to give an hour-long lecture; however, the Nobel committee did not ask Nash to do so, due to concerns over his mental health.

    Additional Resources

    Princetoniana Committee Oral History Project Records, Interview with Harold Kuhn, Part 1, pp. 31-40.  In this part of the interview, Prof. Kuhn discusses his behind the scenes work for John Nash’s Nobel Prize.

    Historical Subject Files Collection, 1746-2005 : A Beautiful Mind.

    Article: John Nash automobile accident May 23, 2015, in Monroe Township, New Jersey.

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