Sunday, 27 April 2014

A QUIET LIFE (PRINCETON, 1970-90) (Biography)                                                                                                   Sylvia Nasar

Sylvia Nasar is the author of this biography titled “A Beautiful Mind”. It is a detailed, very powerful and dramatic biography of John Nash who was awarded Nobel Prize in Economics in 1994 for his work in “Game theory”. “A Beautiful Mind” is the story of the human mind: genius, madness and reawakening”. Sylvia Nasar is an economist and journalist and while she was working for The New York Times she heard a rumour that John Nash, the great mathematical genius who had suffered from schizophrenia for three decades was selected for Nobel Prize, she began to study the life history of John Nash, conducted more than 1000 interviews, e-mails, letters with people who had known Nash at different periods of his life. It was indeed, a herculean task and achieved what she wanted. It received many awards and recognitions and described as “a triumph of intellectual biography”. The biography won the 1998 National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. “A Beautiful Mind” has been translated into 30 languages and it has been filmed by Ron Howard in the same title.
*John Forbes Nash was teaching mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MITT). At the same time he worked as the RAND Corporation think tank in Santa Monica, California. At that time Alicia Larde was a student at MIT and fell in love with John Nash, the mathematics professor. They got married in 1957 and a son Johnny Nash was born to them, but their married days did not last long and divorced after 5 years. Alicia Larde was strikingly beautiful, well groomed and feminine. She was intellectually sharp, cosmopolitan and witty. She was, above all, a very brave and faithful woman. She silently suffered her woes with a smiling face.  John Nash fell in love with a nurse named Eleanor Stier and a boy was born to them, John David Stier.  John Coleman Moore was a professor of mathematics and also a friend of both John Nash and Alicia. Moore possessed a charming personality with his dark good looks, formal manners and custom-made suits made him very attractive to women. He was also a ladies’ man. Plagued by alcoholism and severe depression, John Coleman Moore was hospitalised for more than one and a half years. Alicia was the only regular visitor to Moore and they became very intimate and their relationship turned romantic. It was, indeed, born out of mutual sympathy and shared experiences. Moore returned to Princeton and his teaching duties in the summer of 1965. He became Alicia’s regular escort at Princeton dinner parties and concerts. Everyone thought that they would get married but it did not occur.
*Alicia suddenly lost her job at Radio Corporation of America. It was the beginning of her hard times which lasted for several years and she drifted from job to job and was frequently unemployed. She was highly qualified aerospace engineer and applied for the job in many companies but they did not want a female engineer. Even her unemployment benefits ran out and she was forced to go on welfare and to use food stamps. She thought Coleman Moore would marry him, but he was a selfish man who did not want the unnecessary burden of an unemployed woman and her son in his life. So he backed away. Alicia shifted from her nice house in the heart of Princeton and took a poor, cheap house on rent in Princeton Junction. There Alicia, her son Johnny and mother stayed together.
*In the year 1970 Alicia offered to let John Nash live with her. There are several reasons for this decision. First her bitter experiences after the divorce. She had romantic relation with John Coleman Moore, but it was utter failure. She knew that the love for John Nash was still green and fresh and they are made for each other. This gave her new insights into Nash’s miserable condition of life. Alicia wrote to Martha, the sister of John Nash that she felt that she understood his difficulties much better than she ever had done in the past because she had already experienced some of John Nash’s type of problems personally. Secondly Alicia was moved by pity, loyalty and learned the truth that no one else on earth would take John Nash who has been suffering from schizophrenia. His mother was dead, and his sister Martha did not like to take this unnecessary burden on her life. Finally Alicia knew that mere physical help and hospitalisation would not help John Nash. He wanted safety, freedom and friendship and they can be given to him only by Alicia in her home as a ‘boarder’. Thus John Nash was taken to her house at Princeton Junction. But Alicia never treated him as a ‘boarder’ and she and John Nash ate meals together and Nash spent a lot of time with Johnny helping him with his homework or playing chess with him. But her sufferings continued. Her only son Johnny inherited his father’s disease schizophrenia and Alicia took him to hospital, but he ran away and she had to get the help of police to bring him back. Alicia silently suffered her pain and sorrow like a candle light. She tried to cope with Johnny’s refusal to take medication, his constant running away, his periodic need for hospitalisation and above all the financial difficulties, in spite of her hard work from morning till evening in the office. She bravely faced her private sorrow without surrender to depression. “”You sacrifice so much, you put so much into it, and then it all goes” Alicia said one day to her friend Gaby.

 Answer the following in two or three sentences each
Why did Alicia object to hospitalizing Nash?
 His mother and sister Martha planned to hospitalise Nash again, Nash requested Alicia not to send him to hospital because there he would not get safety, freedom and friendship. On the other hand it would be unnecessary and harmful to him. John Nash has been suffering from Schizophrenia, a chronic, severe and disabling brain disease. Alicia believed that living in an academic community among his own without the threat of further hospitalization would help him get well.
Who is Gaby Morel? How much of a support was she to Alicia in trouble? What was Gaby Morel’s estimate of Alicia?
Gaby Borel was the best friend of Alicia.  Alicia had to look after both her husband John Nash and son Johnny for both of them are suffering from Schizophrenia. As trouble with Johnny overwhelmed her, Alicia turned to her closest female friend Gaby Borel for support. Gaby accompanied Alicia on her visit to Carrier Clinic where Johnny was hospitalised. From there Johnny was sent to Trenton Psychiatric. Gaby followed Alicia everywhere and also invited Nashes to dinner. Gaby liked Alicia for her supreme sacrifice and compassion and loyalty to John Nash’ her husband. Gaby knew much about Alicia than anyone else. She says,” Alicia always put a sort of shield around herself and she was very brave and faithful woman”
What did John Nash expect of John David Steir as a son?
 John Nash had some idea that his son would play an important and personal role in John Nash’s long-awaited “gay liberation”. The father waited for his son’s help, but John David did not help his father and the relationship did not last long.John David Stier did not show any sympathy and love to his father. On the other hand, he thought of his mentally ill father was disturbing to him.
How did Eleanor receive Johnny when he went to stay with them during Christmas? During Christmas Johnny went to Boston to stay with Eleanor and John David. Eleanor welcomed him warmly, cooked him nice meals, fussed over him. She also bought him a down jacket. Johnny liked his step brother very much and went to school with him.
What made Kenneth Fields think that only personal tutoring would be of help to Johnny? OR “I don’t need to take calculus”, I’m going to major in math.” – Who is the speaker?
Johnny Nash, the son of John Nash joined Rider College and he used to make complaints at the math orientation session, questioning everything.  The boy was taken to Kenneth Fields, the chairman of the mathematics department. He told the chairman that he did not need to take calculus and that he was going to major in math. At first the chairman was shocked and talked with the boy for some time and found that Johnny was brilliant and was a real mathematician and offered to tutor him personally and found that Johnny could easily solve any difficult problem in maths such as advanced calculus and differential geometry. Soon the chairman sent Johnny to a Ph.D. program.
“Why do I have to do anything? My father doesn’t have to do anything”. Who is the speaker? Who is he speaking to? What is the occasion? OR How successfully did Johnny work out unsolved classical problems on number theory?
Kenneth Fields, the chairman of the maths department at Rider College concluded that Johnny was wasting his time at Rider and sent him to a Ph.D. program. Johnny had neither high school certificate or college diploma, he was accepted at Rutgers University with a full scholarship. There he passed through his qualifying examinations very easily. But he often threatened authorities that he would drop out of school and Alicia begged Kenneth Fields over phone to talk to Johnny. When Fields did, Johnny would answer that why he was forced to work. His father did not have to do anything. His mother Alicia worked hard and supported his father. So why couldn’t mother support him too. Johnny inherited not only the genius of his father but also his disease Schizophrenia. Yet Johnny didn’t drop out. He succeeded brilliantly. The professor at Rutgers gave Johnny unsolved classical problems in his graduate course on ‘number theory’ every week and Johnny came back with the solution the following week. Johnny wrote a joint paper with his maths professor that became the first chapter of his thesis. In 1985 Johnny got his Ph.D. from Rutgers.
“Things seemed rather hopeful”. What were the developments that turned out for good that filled hope in Alicia?
* In 1985 Johnny, her only son, got his Ph.D. from Rutgers and he was appointed as a first rate research mathematician at Marshal University. Alicia got a better job as computer programmer and returned home to El Salvador and John Nash recovered from his illness and in the spring of 2001 they got married again 38 years after their divorce.  
The transformation that took place in the life of John Nash when under attack of schizophrenia?
 When the great theorist and mathematical researcher John Nash was under attack of schizophrenia, he was very withdrawn, silent and reserved. He was careless of dressing and shaving and wandered up and down the streets. His grey hair long and his expression was blank. Boys and teenagers thought of him as a mad man and planted themselves in his path, waving their arms, shouting rude things directly into his startled face. He did not like hospitalisation. When his son John David Stier talked to him, John Nash was not interested and only talked about himself.
Essay      1.“A Beautiful Mind” is a “triumph of intellectual biography”- Discuss
(Please see the first paragraph of the note)   “You sacrifice so much, you put so much into it, and then it all goes”. Estimate the character of Alicia as a wife and mother, a symbol of silent sacrifice.
(Prepare this essay in your own words after reading the note) *marked paragraphs can be used for the answer.
_______________________________________________________________________________
“Old Negro Spiritual”
Free at last, free at last
Thank God Almighty, I am free at last,
The very time I thought I was lost,
Thank God Almighty, I am free at last,
My dungeon shook and my chains fell off,
Thank God Almighty, I am free at last,
This is religion, I do know,
Thank God Almighty, I am free at last;
For I never felt such a love before,
Thank God Almighty I am free at last.

Kjt/16-12-2013 

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