Demise of the Beautiful Mind
Last May 23, 2015, the famous Nobel laureate in economics and winner of the Abel Prize in mathematics, John Nash and his wife Alicia de Larde Nash were killed in a motor vehicle accident in New Jersey. Nash—popularized by Hollywood in the highly successful movie “The Beautiful Mind” with actor Russel Crowe playing the lead character—was 86 years old when he died. I first heard of this mathematical genius when I entered Harvard as a Ph.D. student in 1959. He was teaching at the nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) and was known as a prodigy, having earned his Ph. D. from Princeton at the age of 21 after writing a doctoral dissertation containing only 32 pages on non-cooperative games, replete with mathematical equations. He was considered in the same league as equally famous Paul Samuelson, also a Nobel laureate in economics and the author of the most successful economics textbook in U.S. educational history, who was also teaching at M.I.T. at that time. Professor Samuelson obtained his Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University by writing even a much shorter dissertation, all in mathematical equations, entitled “Foundations of Economic Analysis.” Samuelson was 26 when he earned his Ph.D.