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A Beautiful MInd

by Sylvia Nasar

Book list The shadowy line between genius and madness is exemplified in the life of mathematician John Nash, Strangelovian game theorist of nuclear war, 1994 Nobelist in economics, and schizophrenic. Nasar is a rare author who explicates both calculus and mental disease.

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly 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)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book list Rarely has the fragility of the boundary separating genius from madness been illustrated with more compelling insight than in this biography of John Nash, a Nobel laureate in economics and one of this century's greatest mathematicians. Untangling the strands of this perplexing life requires the rare author who can explicate the complex rationality of differential calculus and also plumb the bizarre illogic of schizophrenia. Nasar identifies the earliest signs of a prodigy in the sloppy and introverted child who played with magnets and found shortcuts for doing fourth-grade arithmetic. She diagnoses the first symptoms of mental instability in the MIT scholar who astonishes the world with his bold solutions to impossible problems. And she detects the first stirrings of recovery in the pathetic specter wandering the halls of Princeton. To fully appreciate Nash's career accomplishments, readers must have some grasp of advanced mathematics. But Nasar tells the story of a great mind broken and then healed with subtle sympathy, which will touch any reader who understands what it means to hope--or to fear. --Bryce Christensen

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Library Journal 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.ÄGregg Sapp, Univ. of Miami Lib., Coral Gables, FL

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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