Mathematician Who Inspired "A Beautiful Mind," Wife Die in NJ Taxi Crash - NBC New York

Mathematician Who Inspired "A Beautiful Mind," Wife Die in NJ Taxi Crash

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    John Nash, Who Inspired "A Beautiful Mind," Dies

    The Princeton University mathematician and Nobel Prize winner whose life inspired the film "A Beautiful Mind" died in a taxi accident in New Jersey. Ida Siegal reports. (Published Monday, May 25, 2015)

    The Princeton University mathematician and Nobel Prize winner whose life inspired the film "A Beautiful Mind" died in a taxi accident in New Jersey on Saturday, according to police.

    John Forbes Nash Jr., 86, and his wife of almost 60 years, Alicia Nash, 82, were killed when the driver of the taxi they were riding in on the New Jersey Turnpike lost control and crashed into a guard rail, police said. 

    The Nashes were traveling south in Monroe Township around 4:30 p.m. when the taxi crashed while trying to pass a Chrysler, according to New Jersey State Police Department Sgt. Gregory Williams.

    Just days before his death, Nash received a prize from the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters in Oslo with New York University mathematician Louis Nirenberg, who called Nash a truly great mathematician and "a kind of genius."

    The scene of the New Jersey Turnpike crash Saturday that killed John Forbes Nash Jr. and his wife, Alicia Nash.
    Photo credit: NJ Turnpike

    Nirenberg said he had chatted with the Nashes for an hour at Newark International Airport before they'd gotten into a taxi to return home to Princeton Township, New Jersey.

    Police said it doesn't appear that the two were wearing seat belts and that they were thrown from the taxi when it crashed.

    The taxi driver was taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. A passenger in the Chrysler was treated for neck pain, according to police.

    Police said the crash is under investigation and that no one has been charged.

    Nash's life was the subject of the 2001 film, "A Beautiful Mind," starring Russell Crowe.

    In a tweet Sunday, Crowe said that he was "stunned" by the news.

    "An amazing partnership," Crowe wrote. "Beautiful minds, beautiful hearts."

    "A Beautiful Mind" made more than $300 million worldwide and won four Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress.

    "This is a great loss," actress Jennifer Connelly, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Alicia Nash in the film, said. "John and Alicia Nash were an inspiration and I have deep admiration for all that they accomplished in their lives."

    Ron Howard, who directed the film, said Sunday that "it was an honor telling part of their story."

    Nash was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for his work in game theory, which offered insight into the dynamics of human rivalry. It is considered one of the most influential ideas of the 20th century.

    Nash was also the senior research mathematician at Princeton.

    Nash worked on his equilibrium theory at Princeton and, in 1950, received his doctorate with a dissertation on non-cooperative games. The thesis contained the definition and properties of what would later be called the Nash equilibrium.

    But it was while teaching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1959, when his wife, Alicia, was pregnant with their son, that schizophrenia began to emerge, a yearslong fight that was chronicled in the Academy Award-winning blockbuster "A Beautiful Mind."

    In an autobiography written for The Nobel Foundation website, Nash said delusions caused him to resign as a faculty member at MIT. He also spent several months in New Jersey hospitals on an involuntary basis. However, Nash's schizophrenia diminished through the 1970s and 1980s as he "gradually began to intellectually reject some of the delusionally influenced lines of thinking," he wrote.

    2001's "A Beautiful Mind" was based on an unauthorized biography by Sylvia Nasar, who wrote that Nash's contemporaries found him "immensely strange" and "slightly cold, a bit superior, somewhat secretive." Much of his demeanor likely stemmed from mental illness.

    The Nashes split in 1963 then resumed living together several years later and finally remarried in 2001.

    John Nash held a research post at Brandeis University before eventually returning to Princeton. Known as brilliant and eccentric, he was associated with Princeton for many years, most recently serving as a senior research mathematician.

    Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber said in a tweet that "we are stunned and saddened" by the news.

    "John's remarkable achievements inspired generations of mathematicians, economists and scientists who were influenced by his brilliant, groundbreaking work in game theory, and the story of his life with Alicia moved millions of readers and moviegoers who marveled at their courage in the face of daunting challenges," Eisgruber said in a statement.

    New Jersey Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman said she was saddened to hear that Princeton has lost "a brilliant, kind, and humble individual." 

    “In his lifetime, Nash conquered mathematics in ways few could even imagine, all while battling mental illness that threatened to overshadow his incredible contributions," Coleman said.

    "In his victories he leaves behind a legacy as a pioneer, hero and friend, and will be remembered by many.

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