John Nash and the Mathematics of Game Theory

By Samuel Phineas Upham

Born in Bluefield, West Virginia, John Forbes Nash Jr. is the mathematician most responsible for the fundamentals behind game theory and differential geometry. Most people know his as the “mind” in the movie “A Beautiful Mind.”

Nash spent much of his time looking at the factors that govern chance in a given circumstance. He became an expert at finding order within the complex systems at play in the world around him.

Nash was considered a mathematical genius long before he got to college. He studied advanced mathematics courses at his local community college, and received a full scholarship to the Carnegie Institute of Technology. In 1948, he completed a graduate degree in mathematics, having spent significant time in the field of chemical engineering as well.

Nash sought to uncover the true methodologies behind making decisions. Game theory is a kind of mathematical study of this process. It used to be a field applied mainly to politics and business, but people of all walks of life are benefitting heavily from game theory today.

Nash also suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, which he first begun to show signs of in 1959. He began to see conspiracies everywhere he looked, beginning with men in red ties who were secretly plotting against him. After he failed to present a coherent lecture on the Riemann hypothesis, he was admitted to McLean Mental Hospital that same year.

With treatment, Nash recovered. The movie incorrectly depicts him medicating himself to control the paranoia. The reality is that Nash stopped his own medication and tried to manage his symptoms. He was largely successful after 1970.

He and his wife were killed in a car accident on May 23, 2015.

Samuel Phineas Uphamis an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Samual Phineas Upham website or Facebook page.