This past weekend the world lost the brilliant mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr., and his wife, Alicia, in a car accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. Nash became widely known through the film “A Beautiful Mind”, which portrayed his descent into, and recovery from schizophrenia. Strangely, enough, I never saw the film, although, as the high IQ offspring of a chemist with an extremely high IQ, and psychoses of his own, I am more than a bit fascinated by, and concerned with, the relationships between genius and madness.
Outside of the notoriety granted him by the film, Nash is actually best known for his work in game theory – and subsequent extension into economics, and the role of money. He was a shared recipient of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994, for his work on game theory, and was returning from accepting the Abel Prize for his work on nonlinear equations, at the time of his death.
I thought it fitting today to offer three of his quotes relating to mental illness.
“I seem to be thinking rationally again in the style that is characteristic of scientists. However, this is not entirely a matter of joy as if someone returned from physical disability to good physical health. One aspect of this is that rationality of thought imposes a limit on a person’s concept of his relation to the cosmos.”
“I would not dare to say that there is a direct relation between mathematics and madness, but there is no doubt that great mathematicians suffer from maniacal characteristics, delirium and symptoms of schizophrenia.”
“People are always selling the idea that people with mental illness are suffering. I think madness can be an escape. If things are not so good, you maybe want to imagine something better. In madness, I thought I was the most important person in the world.”