John Nash: "Great Wits and Madness Near Allied"

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In summary, John Nash was a brilliant mathematician who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He is not typically diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a disorder that is characterized by social deficits and a strong interest in math and science.
  • #1

Ivan Seeking

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...The disease began to evaporate in the early 1970s and Nash began to gradually to return to his work in mathematics. However, Nash himself associated his madness with his living on an "ultralogical" plane, "breathing air too rare" for most mortals, and if being "cured" meant he could no longer do any original work at that level, then, Nash argued, a remission might not be worthwhile in the end. As John Dryden once put it:

Great wits are sure to madness near allied,
And thin partitions do their bounds divide.

(John Dryden, Absalom and Achitophel, 1681) [continued]
http://cepa.newschool.edu/het/profiles/nash.htm [Broken]
 
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  • #2
not really anything surprising there (to me anyway). cantor was very depressed all his life, & so was russell too. i think when russell was young he'd go sit in some 'secret place' & consider suicide on a regular basis. the only thing keeping him from actually going through with it was that there were unsolved math problems. lots if math people are borderline autistic, which keeps them working obsessively on something. i think people call it asperger's syndrome, which is like autism's little brother. i read in the paper that there's evidence to suggest that einstein & Newton had it.
 
  • #3
Check out Nash's reviews as well:

http://ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=25653
 
  • #4
fourier jr said:
lots if math people are borderline autistic, which keeps them working obsessively on something. i think people call it asperger's syndrome, which is like autism's little brother.
I just read a book on autistic savants, among whom you find the amazing mental calculators, and another book on Asperger's syndrome. Neither of these diagnoses fit John Nash.

Nor does he fit squarely into any of the psychiatric diagnoses, although he was diagnosed as "schizophrenic". He is the only person I've ever heard of who has had such extended visual and auditory hallucinations involving recurring characters. Visual hallucinations are actually fairly rare in mental illness, and are generally not extended, and definitely not so coherent over so many years. I think John Nash has some undiagnosed organic problem.

i read in the paper that there's evidence to suggest that einstein & Newton had it.
The more I find out about Asperger's I think it is really, really unlikely that Einstein or Newton had it. They both may have had some kind of syndrome or very mild pathology, but I don't think it was Asperger's. Einstein, in particular, was too socially adept, too sensitive to social signals, to be given this diagnosis. His language delay almost rules Asperger's out since Asperger's kids tend to be the opposite: quite precocious, learning to speak and read before their contemporaries.

I actually know very little about Newton as a person except that he was a recluse and got into many heated arguments via letters. Asperger's people tend to be non-confrontational, and greatly dislike the stress of argumentation.

Some great people in history did, certainly, have major neurological problems about which there's little doubt: Julius Caesar and Dostoyevski had seizures, Samuel Johnson had Tourettes, Nikola Tesla had Obsessive-Compulsive disorder, Beethoven was bipolar (manic/depressive), but this suggested diagnosis of Asperger's doesn't actually fit in these two cases (or for John Nash).
 
  • #5
"Great wits are sure to madness near allied,
And thin partitions do their bounds divide."

This has to be the original statement of the famous cliche "There is a thin line between genius and madness."

I found the poem online and went to check out the context in which it was said. However...

In looking for the context of this notion,
I found you have to navigate an ocean.
This "Absalom..." is not a minute's reading,
And slogging through it gets the sweat a'beading.


John Dryden: Absalom and Achitophel, page 1
Address:http://www.web-books.com/Classics/Poetry/Anthology/Dryden/Absalom1.htm
 
  • #6
The greatest mathematicians always are either a) insane or b) are not very sociable/can not get along well with other people. Case in point

Godel- Insane. Starved himself to death. Germophobe.
Nash-Schizo
Gauss- Complete Jerk
Erdos- Hobo
Pythagoras- Thought it was sinful to eat beans

and the list goes on
 
  • #7
gravenewworld said:
The greatest mathematicians always are either a) insane or b) are not very sociable/can not get along well with other people. Case in point

Godel- Insane. Starved himself to death. Germophobe.
Nash-Schizo
Gauss- Complete Jerk
Erdos- Hobo
Pythagoras- Thought it was sinful to eat beans

and the list goes on
I see that you use the DSM-0/1 for your terminology. It also includes such diagnoses as:

Looney
Nuts
Weird
Whacko
Loopy
Ditsy

And, the favorite of PF member Math Is Hard: Crazy As A Bessie-Bug
 
  • #8
The_Professional said:
Check out Nash's reviews as well:

http://ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=25653

things seem to have really changed. in a beautiful mind i read that he'd put fermat's last theorem on tests & also have as a question "what is your name?" & take 25% off if they just put their name instead of the complete phrase "my name is ____". goo to see if he's changed his ways
 

What is "John Nash: Great Wits and Madness Near Allied" about?

"John Nash: Great Wits and Madness Near Allied" is a biography about the life and work of John Forbes Nash Jr., a renowned mathematician and Nobel Prize winner who battled with schizophrenia throughout his career.

What makes John Nash's story unique?

John Nash's story is unique because he was able to achieve great success and recognition in the field of mathematics despite his struggles with mental illness. His ability to overcome and manage his illness is a testament to his resilience and determination.

What impact did John Nash have on the field of mathematics?

John Nash made significant contributions to the fields of mathematics and economics, particularly in the areas of game theory and differential geometry. His work has had a lasting impact on these fields and continues to be studied and applied by researchers and scholars.

How did John Nash's battle with schizophrenia affect his personal life?

John Nash's battle with schizophrenia greatly affected his personal life, causing strain in his relationships and leading to periods of hospitalization. However, with the help of his family and friends, he was able to manage his illness and maintain a fulfilling personal life.

What lessons can be learned from John Nash's story?

John Nash's story teaches us the importance of perseverance and resilience in the face of adversity. It also highlights the need for greater understanding and support for individuals struggling with mental illness, and the importance of destigmatizing and seeking treatment for such conditions.

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