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A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar October 12, 2008

Posted by thinkphd in : Books , trackback

I just finished reading A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar, the poignant story of mathematical genius John Nash. The book chronicles Nash’s life and troubles as he succombs to mental illness, interrupting a promising career in research. As Nash falls deeper into the chasm of paranoid schizophrenia, those around him fail to see the clues until it is too late. He is hospitalized several times and his work is put on hold as he struggles with unseen threats that are very real to him. Most do not recover from demons like those that possess Nash, but somehow through will, determination and the love of his family he slowly returns to a semblance of sanity which allows him to function in society. Nash is best known for game theory studies and it is interesting to read how the governing body of the Nobel prize struggled with some of the same choices important to game theory.

The book reminds us how tenuous sanity can be and forces us to think about how we interpret the actions of others with mental illness. The things that Nash did while sick were unacceptable to society, yet most chose to ignore him when it was not fashionable or beneficial for themselves. The screenplay of the same name takes a small piece of Nash’s life and expands on his delusions. Nasar’s book is far more interesting and the reader is left with the unshakeable feeling that Nash is a far greater and beautiful mind…not because of his brilliance in mathematics or game theory…but because of his unbelieveable steps backward from debilitating mental illness.

I recommend A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar as a reminder of the fragility of our minds and the strength of our wills.

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