Nash, John F.

Nash, John F. (Forbes, Jr.)

(1928–  ) mathematician; born in Bluefield, Va. He attended Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University), switching from chemical engineering to mathematics; he took both a B.A. and M.A. in mathematics in 1948, then earned his Ph.D. in mathematics at Princeton in 1950. Joining the mathematics faculty of Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1951, he was promoted to associate professor when in 1959 mental illness forced him to resign. Thereafter he resided in Princeton, N.J., for much of that time as a visiting research scholar at Princeton University, but at times as a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study. His doctoral thesis, "Noncooperative Games" was published in the early 1950s and is regarded as laying the mathematical foundations for game theory. This field of analysis, which uses mathematics to predict how people will behave in all kinds of situations involving rivalries, was invented in the 1940s by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern. Since the 1950s, game theory has been applied by economists in studying strategic behavior, specifically in the organization of industry for competitive situations. Nash shared the 1994 Nobel Prize in economic science with two other major contributors to game theory, John C. Harsanyi, an American, and Reinhard Selten, a German.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.