A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful Mind

by

Sylvia Nasar

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A Beautiful Mind: Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At the end of June 1951, Nash is living in Boston and working in Cambridge. MIT, where he is employed as an instructor, is the nation’s “leading engineering school,” though it is not yet a renowned research university (as it is now). MIT looks very different from Princeton: the buildings are “utilitarian,” not Gothic, and a number of important military research projects require a large amount of military personnel on campus. Additionally, MIT’s faculty members are less established than the famous professors at Princeton. But MIT is also less exclusionary—for example, it regularly offered admission to Jewish students, who were often snubbed at Princeton.
Nasar suggests that Nash is somewhat less suited to the atmosphere at MIT than the atmosphere at Princeton, since MIT is less prestigious and competitive, and Nash thrives on prestige and competition.
Themes
Genius, Morality, and Relationships Theme Icon
Nash is somewhat dubious about starting his position at MIT, but as he arrives, the university is beginning to attract top-tier talent, thanks to the work of the mathematics chairman, William Ted Martin. Martin is known for “lur[ing] young hotshot” researchers like Nash to MIT to improve the university’s research focus. The “most attractive” mathematician at MIT to Nash is Norbert Wiener, known as the “father of cybernetics”: like Nash, he is “famously eccentric” and suffers from manic upswings and depressive episodes. Nash and Wiener form a bond, and Nash begins to view Wiener as a “kindred spirit.” Nash also becomes close with Norman Levinson, a prominent MIT professor who, like Al Tucker at Princeton, plays the role of “sounding board and father substitute” to the young mathematician. An early pioneer in the theory of partial differential equations, Levinson, like Nash, is interested in exploring difficult, novel problems.
Due to his difficult personality, Nash has struggled to form bonds with other mathematicians in the past, but he feels connected to Wiener and Levinson, with whom he shares certain personality traits. Though Nash hasn’t expressed an interest in having friendships before, he begins to find that relationships such as the ones he forms with Wiener and Levinson greatly enrich his life; later, he will serve as a mentor to other mathematicians, too.
Themes
Genius, Morality, and Relationships Theme Icon