A Beautiful Mind

by Sylvia Nasar

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What symptoms, social effects, and potential dangers does John Nash exhibit?

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Journalist Sylvia Nasar wrote a biographical account of John Nash in A Beautiful Mind. Nash certainly encountered difficult challenges in his personal and professional lives. Nash started working at the RAND Center to do research and development for a think tank that was interested in Nash's theories. His work ended in his firing after the police caught him in a sting operation investigating gay men in a men's room in Palisades Park. Also, Nash went to MIT, where he fathered a son with a young nurse. He did not treat her well, and they did not get along. Nash later married another woman, Alicia Larde, a twenty-one year-old former student of Nash, and had another son with her.

Additionally, Nash was afflicted with what was diagnosed at the time as paranoid schizophrenia, which caused him to see things and people that were not actually present and to hear voices that are not speaking in reality. It also caused him to be unjustifiably suspicious of people and their behaviors. For three decades, he periodically spent time at treatment centers to get help.

In particular, we learn about some gossip of Nash's complicated love life. According to the account, in the spring, as John Nash and Alicia lay in bed at Nash’s apartment, the doorbell rang and Eleanor, with whom Nash has a son, entered. Alicia was stunned and upset by Eleanor’s revelations about John's past life with her, but Alicia calmed down quickly when she decided Eleanor was of no significance to her and would not disrupt her life. Alicia, the younger, prettier, smarter, wealthier, and more attractive woman, by this account, was not intimidated by the older, less attractive Eleanor.

Nash’s parents later discovered that he had a girlfriend and a son in Boston whom he was not contacting whatsoever. Nash’s mother insisted that he return to Boston immediately and marry Eleanor to make his life more peaceful and orderly. Eleanor was already in the process of trying to collect child support from Nash. Nash agreed to pay because he did not want the university to find out about his personal life and, instead of listening to his mother's advice, Nash married Alicia in St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington DC, and they went to live in an apartment on New York’s Upper East Side. Later, Nash was in and out of hospitals several times for treatment of his condition, and, due to these difficulties and others, Alicia divorced him in 1963. However, they were remarried in 2001.

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