The shocking news that Princeton mathematician John Nash and his wife Alicia passed away suddenly on last Saturday spread quickly in the US media. They were involved in an automobile accident when the taxi driver was hit while trying to pass another car on New Jersey turnpike on their way home from Norway after receiving the most distinguished Able Prize in mathematics. I learned about this tragic event when I tried to use my computer to get to the internet through the Princeton University website but the news was already in the website at noon on Sunday.
President Christopher Eisgruber had the following to say:
“We are stunned and saddened by news of the untimely passing of John Nash and his wife and great champion, Alicia…Both of them were very special members of the Princeton University community.”
Paula and I saw John Nash soon after we arrived at Princeton University in 1970. He walked around Princeton streets not paying attention to any people around him. He would take the dinky train from Princeton to Princeton Junction aimlessly back and forth. Most people in Princeton recognized him and his strange behavior but no one spoke to him other than a very few Princeton colleagues including Prof Harrold Kuhn of the Department of Economics and Mathematics.
His life suddenly changed when the news came that he was to receive the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1994. He became fairly normal all of a sudden and Paula and I soon became his friends. He began coming to the events of the Economics Department, including our seminars, social events and events sponsored by various research programs or research centers of our Department. The last time Paula and I talked with the Nash’s was to share a table at a dinner party on March 27 sponsored by the Center from Economic Policy Studies (CEPS). We congratulated him for the Able Prize in mathematics.
If one did not know his achievements in mathematics and economics one would find him a friendly and quite ordinary person. He could get along with people easily.
Paula, who worked with international students on campus, sometimes responded to students request and asked him to talk with them and to have pictures taken with them. He and Alicia always obliged and spoke with them gently.