Read John Nash’s Super Short PhD Thesis with 26 Pages & 2 Citations: The Beauty of Inventing a Field

nash thesis

Last week John Nash, the Nobel Prize-win­ning math­e­mati­cian, and sub­ject of the block­buster film A Beau­ti­ful Mind, passed away at the age of 86. He died in a taxi cab acci­dent in New Jer­sey.

Days lat­er, Cliff Pick­over high­light­ed a curi­ous fac­toid: When Nash wrote his Ph.D. the­sis in 1950, “Non Coop­er­a­tive Games” at Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty, the dis­ser­ta­tion (you can read it online here) was brief. It ran only 26 pages. And more par­tic­u­lar­ly, it was light on cita­tions. Nash’s diss cit­ed two texts: One was writ­ten by John von Neu­mann & Oskar Mor­gen­stern, whose book, The­o­ry of Games and Eco­nom­ic Behav­ior (1944), essen­tial­ly cre­at­ed game the­o­ry and rev­o­lu­tion­ized the field of eco­nom­ics; the oth­er cit­ed text, “Equi­lib­ri­um Points in n‑Person Games,” was an arti­cle writ­ten by Nash him­self. And it laid the foun­da­tion for his dis­ser­ta­tion, anoth­er sem­i­nal work in the devel­op­ment of game the­o­ry, for which Nash won the Nobel Prize in Eco­nom­ic Sci­ences in 1994.

The reward of invent­ing a new field, I guess, is hav­ing a slim bib­li­og­ra­phy.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

John Nash: A Bril­liant Mad­ness — 2002 Film on the Nobel Prize Win­ning Math­e­mati­cian

The Short­est-Known Paper Pub­lished in a Seri­ous Math Jour­nal: Two Suc­cinct Sen­tences

The World Record for the Short­est Math Arti­cle: 2 Words

Free Online Math Cours­es

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  • Ashiq Ahmad Khan says:

    This was shock­ing to know about the demise of John Nash. I had a chance to view the film “a beau­ti­ful mind” with a close friend, Steve Land­fried in Wis­con­sin-Chica­go where John Nash was a sub­ject of this film. I am glad that Steve made this choice for me since I could see and feel all, that this mag­ni­fi­cient sci­en­tist had gone through.This is still my favorite film because of its sub­ject

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