A little portrait of a genius mathematician

Reference: A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar, the life of mathematical genius and Nobel Laureate, John Nash, A Touchstone Book, Published by Simon and Schuster.

…”Geniuses”, the mathematician Paul Halmos wrote, “are of two kinds: the ones who are just like all of us, but very much more so, and the ones who apparently have an extra human spark. We can all run, and some of us can run the mile in less than 4 minutes, but there is nothing that most of us can do that compares with the creation of the Great G-minor Fugue.” Nash’s genius was of that mysterious variety more often associated with music and art than with the oldest of all sciences. It wasn’t that his mind worked faster, that his memory was more retentive or that his power of concentration was greater. The flashes of intuition were non-rational. Like other great mathematical intuitionists — Georg Friedrich Bernhard Riemann, Jules Henri Poincare, Srinivasa Ramanujan —- Nash saw the vision first constructing the laborious proofs long afterwards. But even after he would try to explain some astonishing result, the actual route he had taken remained a mystery to others who tried to follow his reasoning. Donald Newman, a mathematician who knew Nash at MIT in the 1950s, used to say about him that “everyone else would climb a peak by looking for a path somewhere on the mountains. Nash would climb another mountain altogether and from that distant peak would shine a searchlight back onto the first peak.”

Hats off,

Nalin Pithwa.

 

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