Back at MIT in the fall of 1957, Nash and Alicia find an apartment in Cambridge, and Alicia gets a job nearby as a physics researcher. They often go out to dinner with Nash’s old graduate student friends, since Alicia wants to make sure that she and her new husband are surrounded by “amusing people.” Nash continues to work on the turbulence problem he had begun at the Courant Institute, addressing small gaps in the proof: it will take most of the year for him to be able to submit his research to a journal.
Always supporting Nash from behind the scenes, Alicia has to work hard to make sure that she and Nash seem normal and well-adjusted to the other graduate students.
Overall, Nash’s 30th year is “looking very bright.” In addition to his academic achievements, Fortune magazine is going to feature him in an upcoming series on the leaders of “New Math.” Yet Nash is also highly dissatisfied with the state of his life, since he is not yet a full, tenured professor at MIT: his candidacy is controversial, since many MIT professors, like some professors at Princeton, feel that he is a “poor teacher and an even worse colleague.”
Though Nash’s career seems to be going better than ever, cracks are beginning to show up on the surface of his life. In particular, his personality continues to cause rifts between him and other faculty members.
In 1958, the Fields Medal—“the ultimate distinction that a mathematician can be granted by his peers,” awarded to a mathematician under forty—is awarded to two mathematicians, a topologist and a number theorist, after an “unusually contentious” round of deliberations. Though Nash’s name was up for consideration, he likely did not make the final rounds: no one could have predicted, though, that this would be Nash’s final chance to win the prize. Nash had hoped that by putting one of his papers up for the Bocher Prize, another prestigious American math prize, he might increase his chances of winning the Fields—to no avail.
In the last few years before Nash’s 30-year hiatus from mathematics, Nash experiences a series of disappointments that cast doubt on his feelings of self-importance and his confidence in his own work. Nash does not receive the Fields Medal, despite his accomplishments in game theory, and is devastated by this loss; he will not be recognized publicly for his work for another 30 years.