John Nash, Inspiration for ‘A Beautful Mind,’ Leaves Legacy after Tragic Death

John Nash, the mathematician who inspired the movie A Beautiful Mind, died in a tragic car crash on May 23 after a lifelong struggle with schizophrenia. Although the 86-year-old dealt with the disorder throughout his life, his accomplishments showed that it doesn’t have to put a damper on a person’s joy or goals.

Nash, a Nobel Prize winner, was with his wife on and off for 60 years, and she died along with him when the taxi in which they were riding went out of control after the driver tried to pass another car.

An Early Brilliance

Nash, an engineer’s son, showed his talent for mathematics early, confounding his fourth grade teacher by taking his own approach to solving problems. His brilliance continued in his high school classes, and he went to Princeton University, then landed a teaching position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At the time, he was viewed as selfish and egotistical, but was tolerated because of his talent.

Nash got married in 1957, but schizophrenia reared its ugly head while his wife, Alicia, was pregnant with the couple’s first child. His behavior got so out of control that she finally had him institutionalized. He continued to show symptoms after his release, even resigning from his job and fleeing to Europe before being deported back to the United States. At that point, he was known to ramble about himself in the third person, write strange sentiments on postcards and make odd phone calls to his former colleagues.

Struggling With Schizophrenia

By 1961, Alicia banded together with Nash’s family members to put him into a state hospital where he was subjected to dangerous insulin coma therapy. Nash got a new job after his release, but still experienced severe symptoms until a psychiatrist got him on anti-psychotic medication. Meanwhile, Alicia divorced him in 1962.

Like many schizophrenics, Nash eventually stopped taking his medication and regressed. His former wife took him in, in 1970, and he moved through life in a symptomatic haze until improving in the 1980s. By 1994, he was doing well enough to win his Nobel Prize, and Alicia consented to remarry him. His life was the basis for A Beautiful Mind, which was released in 2001 and went on to win four Academy Awards.

A Potentially Dangerous Disorder

Unfortunately, many schizophrenics don’t have an ultimately successful life like Nash. According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, one-third of America’s homeless population is made up of people with severe mental illnesses who aren’t getting treatment. They also make up 16 percent of the jail population.

Nash was fortunate to get treatment and to be surrounded by supportive family members and friends. If you have schizophrenia, this page on WebPsychology has some good advice on coping. If you know someone with the disorder, offer your support and refrain from asking questions like those on this WebPsychology list.