A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful Mind

by

Sylvia Nasar

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on A Beautiful Mind can help.

A Beautiful Mind Characters

Sylvia Nasar

The author of A Beautiful Mind, Sylvia Nasar is a journalist who is working for the New York Times in the 1990s when she first hears about John Nash, a Princeton professor who… read analysis of Sylvia Nasar

John Forbes Nash Jr.

John Forbes Nash Jr. (1928-2015) was an American mathematician and Nobel Prize Laureate, and he is the subject of Sylvia Nasar’s biography A Beautiful Mind. In the book, Nash is described as a… read analysis of John Forbes Nash Jr.

Alicia Larde (Alicia Nash)

Alicia is John Nash’s wife and the mother of his son, John Charles Martin Nash. Alicia and Nash meet at MIT, where he is employed as an instructor. Alicia, an undergraduate student studying… read analysis of Alicia Larde (Alicia Nash)

Martha Nash Legg

Martha Nash Legg is John Nash’s young sister, born in 1930. Martha—described as “tall and striking” and “extremely intelligent”—attends the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and becomes a teacher. As Nash begins… read analysis of Martha Nash Legg

Eleanor Stier

Eleanor Stier and John Nash meet in 1952 when Nash visits the Boston hospital where Stier is employed as a nurse to have some varicose veins removed. Eleanor is an “attractive, hardworking, tenderhearted woman” from… read analysis of Eleanor Stier
Get the entire A Beautiful Mind LitChart as a printable PDF.
A Beautiful Mind PDF

John David Stier

John David Stier is the son of Eleanor Stier and John Nash, born in 1953. John David has a troubled childhood, since Nash—who was unmarried to his mother and was not listed as his… read analysis of John David Stier

John Charles Martin Nash (Johnny)

John Charles Martin Nash, known as “Johnny,” is the son of John Nash and Alicia Larde, born in 1959. Though Johnny has a more stable childhood than his half-brother, John David Stier, and… read analysis of John Charles Martin Nash (Johnny)

John Nash Sr.

A “proper, painstaking, and very serious” man with a “sharp, inquiring mind,” John Nash Sr., John Nash’s father, is a commanding patriarch and engineer who helps to stoke his son’s early interest in science… read analysis of John Nash Sr.

Virginia Martin Nash

Virginia Martin Nash, John Nash’s mother, is described as an “outgoing and energetic” woman who is “less rigid” than her husband, John Nash Sr., and is the caring, capable matriarch of the Nash… read analysis of Virginia Martin Nash

Lloyd Shapley

A fellow graduate student of John Nash’s at Princeton, Lloyd Shapley is a veteran, a Harvard graduate, and, by the time he arrives at Princeton, one of the “brightest young star[s] in game theoryread analysis of Lloyd Shapley

John von Neumann

Von Neumann is a Hungarian American mathematician and polymath (an individual with a broad knowledge base who studies a variety of subjects) and one of Princeton’s most famous professors during John Nash’s PhD studies… read analysis of John von Neumann

Harold Kuhn

Kuhn is a Princeton math professor and a close friend of John Nash. He is described as a “shrewd, vigorous, sophisticated man” who—unlike other academics—tends to take a close interest in other people’s lives… read analysis of Harold Kuhn

Solomon Lefschetz

Solomon Lefschetz is a Princeton mathematician who recruits students for the graduate program in math. He has an “entrepreneurial and energetic” presence and helps to augment Princeton’s status as a top institution for mathematicians. Like… read analysis of Solomon Lefschetz

Albert Tucker

Tucker is a Princeton mathematician who works on topology (the study of properties of geometric objects as they are preserved under certain deformations) and Lefschetz’s “right-hand man.” Tucker, who possesses a “rare willingness to… read analysis of Albert Tucker

Oskar Morgenstern

Oskar Morgenstern is a “tall, imposing expatriate from Vienna” and an economics professor at Princeton who collaborates with John von Neumann on the “Bible” of game theory, The Theory of Games and Economic Behaviorread analysis of Oskar Morgenstern

William Ted Martin

The chairman of the MIT mathematics department, Martin offers John Nash an instructorship at the university in the 1950s. Martin is a “loquacious” mathematician known for luring “young hotshots” to the department. At the height… read analysis of William Ted Martin

Norbert Wiener

Wiener is “the most attractive figure at MIT” for John Nash, a polymath known as the “father of cybernetics” (“the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine”). Wiener, like… read analysis of Norbert Wiener

Norman Levinson

Levinson is a “first-rate mathematician” at MIT who acts as a “sounding board and father substitute” to John Nash. Like William Ted Martin, Levinson’s Communist past is revealed during the McCarthy years; nonetheless… read analysis of Norman Levinson

Donald J. Newman (D.J.)

Newman is a Harvard graduate student who befriends some mathematicians at MIT in early 1950s, including John Nash. He is considered a “genius and is “a big, brash, blond swaggerer” who becomes “friendly friends”… read analysis of Donald J. Newman (D.J.)

John Milnor

Milnor, a math student at Princeton during John Nash’s year there, is “the most brilliant freshman in the history of the Princeton mathematics department.” He is a “tall, lithe” young man “with a baby… read analysis of John Milnor

Warren Ambrose

Ambrose is a colleague of John Nash’s at MIT who strongly disapproves of Nash, believing him to be a “childish bright guy” who foolishly takes on difficult problems. Ambrose is a “moody, intense, somewhat… read analysis of Warren Ambrose

Woodrow Wilson –

Woodrow Wilson was the 28th president of the United States and the president of Princeton University in the early 20th century. Nasar notes that Wilson “despised mathematics”—which he regarded as a “mild form of torture”—and… read analysis of Woodrow Wilson –

Henry Burchard Fine

Fine was Woodrow Wilson’s best friend, a mathematician and a former dean of science at Princeton in the early 20th century who helped to recruit top-tier mathematicians and scientists for the university, transforming it… read analysis of Henry Burchard Fine

Jack Bricker

Bricker is a first-year graduate student at MIT when John Nash becomes an instructor there, a “self-deprecating” yet engaging, “undeniably bright” student who becomes fast friends with Nash. Nash and Bricker make “no secret of… read analysis of Jack Bricker

Amasa Forrester

Forrester and John Nash meet as graduate students at Princeton, later reuniting at a summer institute at the University of Washington in 1956. Forrester, like Nash, is eccentric, sharing Nash’s “predilection for insult and one-upmanship.”… read analysis of Amasa Forrester

Paul Cohen

Cohen, an MIT instructor, is a “self-obsessed, suspicious, aggressive, and charming” mathematician who often engages Nash in competitions. Nash views himself as a mentor to Cohen, though he also drops hints about his attraction to… read analysis of Paul Cohen

Jorgen Weibull

Weibull is a Swedish professor of economics at the University of Stockholm who proposes John Nash as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Economics. Weibull also meets with Nash after Assar Lindbeck, the… read analysis of Jorgen Weibull

Assar Lindbeck

In 1994, Assar Lindbeck—regarded as Sweden’s most important economist—is the chairman of the committee for the Nobel Prize in Economics. Though Lindbeck is at first skeptical about John Nash’s merits as a candidate for… read analysis of Assar Lindbeck

Ingemar Stahl

Stahl is a Swedish economics and law professor on the selection committee for the Nobel Prize in Economics who strongly objects to John Nash’s winning the Nobel Prize. Stahl is a “brilliant debater” who… read analysis of Ingemar Stahl

Albert Einstein

Arguably the most famous scientist of the 20th century, Einstein is a resident scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study while John Nash is a graduate student at Princeton (the Institute, while not affiliated with… read analysis of Albert Einstein
Minor Characters
George Mackey
Mackey is a Harvard professor and friend of John Nash who visits Nash in the hospital in the spring of 1959. Mackey expresses astonishment that Nash believes his paranoid delusions (about “extraterrestrials” sending him messages) to be true.
Norman Steenrod
Steenrod is a Princeton math professor who becomes John Nash’s “sounding board” during Nash’s years as a graduate student. Steenrod believes that Nash’s ideas are “mathematically interesting and important”—a rare feat for a young graduate student.
Emil Artin
Emil Artin is one of the math faculty members at Princeton while John Nash is a graduate student there. He strongly opposes Nash’s appointment as a professor at Princeton after he finishes his PhD, believing Nash to be “aggressive, abrasive, and arrogant.”
David Gale
Gale is one of John Nash’s fellow graduate students, with whom Nash collaborates on a game that becomes popular among the math students (which the two called “Nash” or “John”).
John Williams
Williams is a member of the RAND think tank who helps to recruit mathematicians, including John Nash, for the organization, and oversees research operations there.
Donald Spencer
Donald Spencer is a Princeton math professor who helps John Nash to develop his theorem on manifolds, a type of geometric object.
Harold Shapiro
Harold Shapiro is a RAND mathematician John Nash works with in summer 1952.
Ruth Hincks
Hincks is a college friend of John Nash’s sister, Martha, who travels with Nash, Martha, and John Milnor to Santa Monica in the summer of 1952. Nash tries to set Hincks and Milnor up, but their romance fizzles out.
Ervin Thorson
Thorson is an applied mathematician with whom John Nash develops a “special”—likely romantic—friendship in Santa Monica. Nash often referred to Thorson as “T” in letters in the late 1960s, more than a decade after they met, suggesting the lasting importance of their brief affair.
Jurgen Moser
Moser is a math faculty member at MIT with whom John Nash begins to collaborate in the late 1950s, forming an “intense” bond. Nash and Moser develop the “Nash-Moser theorem” together, combining Nash’s method for embedding manifolds (a type of geometric object) with Moser’s expertise in celestial mechanics.
Eugenio Calabi
Calabi is a graduate student in mathematics at Princeton during John Nash’s years there, though he is not close friends with Nash. In 1959, Calabi delivers a lecture at MIT, attended by Nash, who begins to interrupt Calabi, making nonsensical comments; Calabi quickly realizes that Nash is mentally ill.
Emma Duchane
Emma Duchane is one of Alicia Nash’s college friends at MIT who helps Alicia as Nash begins to unravel mentally, straining their marriage.
Robert Lowell
Robert Lowell was a famous poet who was hospitalized at McLean Hospital with John Nash in 1959. Lowell and Nash spend “a good deal of time” together at McLean; Lowell could often be found delivering “monologues” to other patients from Nash’s room, while Nash stood by quietly.
Howard S. Mele
Mele is a psychiatrist at the Carrier Clinic, where John Nash is hospitalized in 1963. He plays an “important and positive role” in Nash’s life, providing Nash with therapy sessions and overseeing his recovery.
John Harsanyi and Reinhard Selten
Harsanyi and Selten, both mathematicians who worked on game theory, were the co-recipients of the 1994 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, along with John Nash.
Eugen Bleuler
Bleuler was a Swiss psychiatrist who coined the term schizophrenia, the disease from which John Nash suffered, in 1908, to denote “a specific type of alteration of thinking, feeling and relation to the external world”—an illness often characterized by delusions and extreme personality changes.