The reverberant Princeton University mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr., 86, along with his wife, Alicia, 82, died in a car wreck on Saturday night on the New Jersey Turnpike. The couple lived just outside of the Princeton University campus.
According to the New Jersey State Police, at around 4:30 p.m., Nash and his wife were riding in a taxi cab on the left side of the southbound lane when the driver lost control and crashed into a Chrysler in the center lane after attempting to pass it. State Police Sergeant Gregory William stated Nash and his wife were thrown from the car. He also said an initial investigation found that they were not wearing their seat belts. Both of them were confirmed dead on scene at 5:18 p.m., according to first responders.
The driver of the taxi was taken to a local hospital with non-severe injuries. One of the passengers in the Chrysler was taken in for a minor neck injury. Officials state that was no foul play involved in the accident, and the driver of the taxi will not be charged.
Nash was in Norway last week to receive the Abel Prize for Mathematics, one of the top accolades in his line of work, for his papers published in unison with colleague Louis Nirenberg on nonlinear partial differential equations. Nirenberg said he has always thought that Nash, his longtime friend and colleague, was an excellent mathematician. Nirenberg and many other world-renowned mathematicians and Nobel Laureates found their death devastating.
The life of the once unstable, but undoubtedly genius mathematician was depicted in the 2001 movie, A Beautiful Mind, starring Russell Crowe as Nash. While working as a professor of mathematics at Princeton, he suffered from increasingly terrible bouts of audio and visual hallucinations, rooted in his struggle with paranoid schizophrenia. His off-kilter persona and interovertedness gained him a reputation on campus as a “troubled genius.” The couple became mental health advocates after their son, also named John. was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Although he could not properly express himself well in his first academic setting of West Virginia, his recommendation letter from a professor to go to Princeton simply stated, “This man is a genius.” President of Princeton, Christopher Eisgruber, said he was shocked and saddened by the news of his and his wife’s death. Eisgruber said Nash’s achievements in the field of mathematics has, contributed some of the world’s greatest mathmeticans, all of whom were shaped by his work in the field.
The Nobel Prize winner is probably known most notably for his study-leading contributions to certain fields of mathematics and manufacturing the essence of game theory during his time at Princeton, both as a student and a professor. The theory was used during to Cold War as a mathematical way to quantify human interactions and study decision making. The “game” equates levels of conflict and disagreements in certain social situations. One of the most recognized theories in mathematics was attributed by him – the Nash Equilibrium.
His equation allowed the quantification of all possible war scenarios during the Cold War against the U.S. and U.S.S.R. By knowing this, U.S. intelligence agencies can predict where the enemy’s positions are and what their most probable strategy in war will be. The Nash Equilibrium shows when a certain move by a person or world power would give no benefit to all players in the game, causing them to change strategy when they consider the points of view of others. Some Nobel Laureates have even said Nash was one of the reasons why the United States won the Cold War without firing one bullet.
Crowe took to Twitter to voice his condolences for Nash and his wife. He stated he was stunned by the devastating incident. He sent out a tweet to his followers that stated, “My Heart goes out to John &Alicia & Family…An amazing partnership. Beautiful minds, beautiful hearts.”
By Alex Lemieux
NJ.com: Famed ‘A Beautiful Mind’ mathematician John Nash, wife, killed in N.J. Turnpike crash
CNN: Beautiful Mind’ mathematician John Nash, wife killed in car crash
BBC News: ‘Beautiful Mind’ mathematician John Nash killed in crash