A Man Called Nash


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My father, for whom I was named, was an electrical engineer and had come to Bluefield to work for the electrical utility company there which was and is the Appalachian Electric Power Company. He was a veteran of WW1 and had served in France as a lieutenant in the supply services and consequently had not been in actual front lines combat in the war.

He was originally from Texas and had obtained his B. My mother, originally Margaret Virginia Martin, but called Virginia, was herself also born in Bluefield. She had studied at West Virginia University and was a school teacher before her marriage, teaching English and sometimes Latin.

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Her parents had come as a couple to Bluefield from their original homes in western North Carolina. Her father, Dr. James Everett Martin, had prepared as a physician at the University of Maryland in Baltimore and came to Bluefield, which was then expanding rapidly in population, to start up his practice. But in his later years Dr. Martin became more of a real estate investor and left actual medical practice. I never saw my grandfather because he had died before I was born but I have good memories of my grandmother and of how she could play the piano at the old house which was located rather centrally in Bluefield.

I went to the standard schools in Bluefield but also to a kindergarten before starting in the elementary school level.

Conjure One feat. Leigh Nash - Under The Gun [Taken from 'Armada Lounge, Vol. 6']

And also there were other books available from either our house or the house of the grandparents that were of educational value. Bluefield, a small city in a comparatively remote geographical location in the Appalachians, was not a community of scholars or of high technology. It was a center of businessmen, lawyers, etc. Bell and I remember succeeding in proving the classic Fermat theorem about an integer multiplied by itself p times where p is a prime. I also did electrical and chemistry experiments at that time.


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At first, when asked in school to prepare an essay about my career, I prepared one about a career as an electrical engineer like my father. Later, when I actually entered Carnegie Tech. Regarding the circumstances of my studies at Carnegie now Carnegie Mellon U. But after one semester as a chem. But again, after continuing in chemistry for a while I encountered difficulties with quantitative analysis where it was not a matter of how well one could think and understand or learn facts but of how well one could handle a pipette and perform a titration in the laboratory.

Also the mathematics faculty were encouraging me to shift into mathematics as my major and explaining to me that it was not almost impossible to make a good career in America as a mathematician. So I shifted again and became officially a student of mathematics. And in the end I had learned and progressed so much in mathematics that they gave me an M.

I should mention that during my last year in the Bluefield schools that my parents had arranged for me to take supplementary math.

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When I graduated I remember that I had been offered fellowships to enter as a graduate student at either Harvard or Princeton. But the Princeton fellowship was somewhat more generous since I had not actually won the Putnam competition and also Princeton seemed more interested in getting me to come there. Tucker wrote a letter to me encouraging me to come to Princeton and from the family point of view it seemed attractive that geographically Princeton was much nearer to Bluefield.

Thus Princeton became the choice for my graduate study location. And it was this idea which in turn, when I was a graduate student at Princeton, led to my interest in the game theory studies there which had been stimulated by the work of von Neumann and Morgenstern. So I was prepared actually for the possibility that the game theory work would not be regarded as acceptable as a thesis in the mathematics department and then that I could realize the objective of a Ph.

I went to M. I had been an instructor at Princeton for one year after obtaining my degree in It seemed desirable more for personal and social reasons than academic ones to accept the higher-paying instructorship at M. It was also a beautiful night for the man portrayed by Russell Crowe. In recent weeks, Nash, 73, who lives near Princeton, New Jersey, had become the target of a smear campaign by critics of the film who argued that, in contrast to Crowe's sympathetic character, the real man was no hero.

Distorting and even inventing "facts" supposedly in the book, reporters and reviewers at major news organisations called Nash everything from an adulterer to an anti-semite.


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  • But the attacks also spurred those of us who know Nash and the facts of his life to correct the record. After spending a day and a half interviewing Nash and his family, veteran CBS correspondent Mike Wallace told Larry King: "One of the most obvious ways to go after [the film] is to try to call John Nash an anti-semite, raging homosexual, bad father. He is none of those things.

    Last night's triumph was a vindication not only for the film-makers but for the film's subject. Nash, wearing black tie and sitting with his wife Alicia, looked both pleased and slightly bemused as winner after winner saluted him. This morning on the phone, talking from his room at the St Regis in Los Angeles, Nash remarked that there were some similarities between the Oscar and the Nobel prize, namely that both involved academies and "a lot of politics".

    How will it affect his life? It never ceases to amaze me that Nash and I are now friends. During the three years I worked on the biography, he refused to grant me a formal interview, saying that he was adopting "a position of Swiss neutrality". But he was not averse to chatting informally when we met on social occasions and did not discourage his family and friends from cooperating; after the book was published, he invited me to a party.

    It's been incredible for me to witness his getting his life back bit by bit. Listening to him this morning, I once again felt astonished at the way the remarkable third act of Nash's life has continued to unfold. It is almost impossible to believe that 10 or 15 years ago this witty man with his air of boyish innocence was so sick that he was haunting the Princeton campus in mismatched plaids and red high-top sneakers, scribbling weird but witty messages on blackboards I agree with Harvard!

    There is a brain flat!? Or that when I first learned about his life, as an economics reporter for the New York Times, more than a year before he won the Nobel, he was still afraid to look anyone in the eye, his front teeth rotted. Like the hero of a Greek tragedy, he had fallen, not from a stepladder, but from a star. Nash was just 20, with movie-star looks and an Olympian manner, when he burst on to the mathematical scene in Within 14 months of his arrival at Princeton, he had invented a revolutionary theory of human conflict and cooperation that would eventually win him a Nobel prize.

    By 30, his stunning achievements in pure mathematics and his flamboyant behaviour made him a celebrity in the world of mathematics. Like the actor who plays him in the movie, Nash was "a bad boy, but a great one", according to a fellow mathematician. One rival said he was, "Obnoxious.

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    A brat. What redeemed him was a keen logical beautiful mind. Contrary to widespread references to Nash's "numerous homosexual liaisons", he was not gay. While he had several emotionally intense relationships with other men when he was in his early 20s, I never interviewed anyone who claimed, much less provided evidence, that Nash ever had sex with another man.

    A Man Called Nash

    True, Nash was arrested in a police trap in a public lavatory in Santa Monica in , at the height of the McCarthy hysteria. The military think-tank where he was a consultant, stripped him of his top-secret security clearance and fired him, ignoring Nash's flat denial and saying it "didn't really matter whether the cops were telling the truth or not".

    The charge - indecent exposure - was dropped. Various newspapers have alluded to "Nash's adultery". As a young instructor at MIT, Nash did have an affair with a nurse five years his senior and had a child with her. The book makes clear, however, that his affair with the mother of his older son was over by the time he married Alicia Larde. Entertainment Weekly's assertion that Nash was "a lousy father" is also false. While it's true that Nash behaved irresponsibly toward his elder son, who as a consequence spent several years in foster care, Nash always acknowledged his fatherhood and tried to stay in touch with his son, even during his long illness.

    Since his recovery, they have formed a close relationship. For many years, moreover, Nash has cared for his younger son who has suffered from schizophrenia for more than 25 years, and who has always lived with Nash and his wife.

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