86-year-old John Forbes Nash Jr., the brilliant Princeton University mathematician whose life story was the subject of the film “A Beautiful Mind,” and his wife, Alicia, 82, died in a car crash Saturday on the New Jersey Turnpike, police said.
The two were in a taxi traveling southbound in the left lane of the New Jersey Turnpike when the driver of the Ford Crown Victoria lost control as he tried to pass a Chrysler in the center lane, crashing into a guard rail, according to State Police Sgt. Gregory Williams.
The Nashes were both ejected from the cab, Williams said. “It doesn’t appear that they were wearing seatbelts,” he said.
The second vehicle also crashed into the guard rail, Williams said. The taxi driver, identified as Tark Girgis, 46, was removed from the car and flown to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick with non-life-threatening injuries. A passenger in the Chrysler was treated for neck pain.
The crash was reported at 4:30 p.m. The couple were pronounced dead at the scene at 5:18 p.m., said authorities.
A spokesman for the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s office said no charges were expected to be filed in the case.
Nash was an American mathematician who shared a Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994, the year before he joined the Princeton mathematics department as a senior research mathematician. He is known for his work in game theory, which is strategic decision making, and his struggle with paranoid schizophrenia that he battled with for most of his life, depicted in the 2001 film, “A Beautiful Mind,” starring Russell Crowe.
Stunned…my heart goes out to John & Alicia & family. An amazing partnership. Beautiful minds, beautiful hearts. https://t.co/XF4V9MBwU4
— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) May 24, 2015
Also, his work with differential geometry and partial differential equations have provided insight into the factors that govern chance and events inside complex systems in daily life.
‘Mr_Miscellaneous’ wrote on Reddit, “He was decades ahead of his time when it comes to his work on encryption techniques and cryptology. He analysed the distinction between polynomial time and exponential time computation ten years before people realised it was the issue. A distinction that forms the basis of computational complexity theory. Additionally, he Proposed the Nash Embedding theory and Solved Hilbert’s nineteenth problem which he probably should have won the fields medal for.”
‘Babomancer’ added, “The movie doesn’t even begin to cover his incredibly broad contributions to mathematics. His embedding theorem is one of the most beautiful results I know from geometry. Yet the focus is always on his economics work.” The movie also left out some of the significant details of his personal life, as Hollywood often does.
John and Alicia married in 1957. John dates the start of what he terms “mental disturbances” to the early months of 1959, shortly after Alicia got pregnant. After months of bizarre behavior, he was involuntarily admitted to the McLean Hospital in April-May 1959, where he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. In 1961, was admitted to the New Jersey State Hospital at Trenton and then spent periods in psychiatric hospitals over the next 9 years.
The two divorced in 1963 due to the stress of dealing with his illness. After his final hospital discharge in 1970, Nash lived in de Alicia’s house as a boarder. This stability seemed to help him, and he learned how to consciously discard his paranoid delusions. He stopped taking psychiatric medication and was allowed by Princeton to audit classes. He continued to work on mathematics and eventually he was allowed to teach again. In the 1990s, Alicia and Nash resumed their relationship, and remarried in 2001. They became mental health care advocates when their son John was also diagnosed with schizophrenia.