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Professor John Nash

John Nash as a young professor

John Forbes Nash became a professor while most young people his age were still trying to determine their career paths. 

How did John view his own abilities, when he was a child (growing up in Bluefield, West Virginia) and a young man (studying and teaching at Ivy League institutions)?  His brief autobiography provides some answers:

Bluefield ... was not a community of scholars or high technology...So, from the intellectual viewpoint, it offered the sort of challenge that one had to learn from the world's knowledge rather than from the knowledge of the immediate community.

How does one "learn from the world's knowledge?"  By reading books, among other things, which John did.  But his favorites were not the favorites of other young boys, his age.  He liked such works as Men of Mathematics:

By the time I was a student in high school I was reading the classic "Men of Mathematics" by E.T. Bell and I remember succeeding in proving the classic Fermat theorem about an integer multiplied by itself p times where p is a prime.  [Fermat's Last Theorem, famously solved by Professor Andrew Wiles, is also the subject of an interesting documentary.]

John's father was an engineer.  Initially, he thought he'd follow his father's path:

I also did electrical and chemistry experiments at that time.  At first, when asked in school to prepare an essay about my career, I prepared one about a career as an electrical engineer like my father.  (Quotations, above, from the "Nobel Autobiography of John Nash," quoted at page 6 of The Essential John Nash, by Harold William Kuhn and Sylvia Nasar.)

Soon, however, John changed his mind.  The book he loved as a youngster - about the men of math - stayed with him.  John found his career in that world, becoming a mathematician with such skills that his work as a young man later earned him a Nobel Prize.


Media Credits

Photo of Professor John Nash, online courtesy Library of Congress.

 

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"Professor John Nash " AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Dec 15, 2017.
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