Personal life of John Nash

Early life

John Forbes Nash Jr. was born in Bluefields, West Virginia in 1928, the son of John Forbes Nash Sr. worked, an electrical engineer for the Appalachian Electric Power Company, and Margaret Virginia (née Martin), who had been a schoolteacher before she married. In 1930, he got sister named Martha.

During his final year in high school, Nash also took mathematical courses at a local community college. Having been awarded a full scholarship, he proceeded to the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, where he earned a B.S. and M.S. in mathematics.


After graduating in 1948, the 19-year-old Nash was accepted to both Harvard and Princeton for his graduate studies in mathematics, and chose Princeton where he attended as a John S. Kennedy fellowship recipient.

In 1950, he earned his Ph. D. degree with a dissertation on non-cooperative games. It is is this dissertation that we find his groundbreaking work on the definition and properties of the Nash equilibrium.


After working at Princeton, Nash accepted a position as C.L.E. Moore instructor in the mathematics faculty at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

John David Stier

After roughly a year at MIT, he became hospitalized, and entered into a relationship with a nurse named Eleanor Stier (1921-2005). Stier got pregnant, but when she told Nash about it he abandoned her. Their son John David Stier was born 19 June, 1953.

Indecent exposure, loss of security clearance

In 1954, Nash was arrested for indecent exposure in Santa Monica, California, in a sting operation targeting homosexual men. The charges were dropped fairly quickly, but the event still had notable negative consequences for Nash as the suspicion of him being homosexual, or bisexual, led to him being stripped of his top-secret security clearance and consequently fired from the RAND Corporation where he had been working as a consultant.


In February 1957, Nash married Alicia Lardé Lopez-Harrison (1933-2015), a naturalized U.S. citizen from El Salvador who held a degree in physics from MIT. She was one of very few women studying at MIT in the 1950s, and Nash met her there soon after his break from Eleanor Stier.

Although Nash was an atheist, the wedding ceremony was held in an Episcopal church. (Nash had been baptised Episcopal as a child.)

Tenure at MIT

Nash earned a tenured position at MIT in 1958.

Hospitalization due to schizophrenia

In 1959, John Nash was committed into McLean Hospital to receive psychiatric treatment, as major symptoms of mental illness had became evident in early 1959.

In the spring of 1959, he resigned his position as a member of the MIT mathematics faculty due to his mental health problems.

John Charles Martin Nash

Shortly after Nash was committed to McLean Hospital, Alicia gave birth to their son John Charles Martin Nash. The baby was not named for a year, because Alicia wanted her husband to have a say in the choice of names.

Continued battle with schizophrenia

John Forbes Nash Jr
John Forbes Nash Jr late in life

After spending 50 days at Mc Lean, Nash was released. Over the next nine years, he was recommited to psychiatric hospitals several times, including three times when his sister had him committed against his will.

John and Alicia Nash divorced in 1963. When John’s mother died in 1968, he pressured Alicia to allow him to live with her again, and she eventually accepted him, as a border in her house. This meant that when he was released from hospital in 1970, he moved in with her, and she helped take care of him. After 1970, he was never committed to a psychiatric hospital again.

Gradually, Nash learned how to resist his paranoid delusions. He stopped taking his antipsychotic medicine as it made him lethargic.

You can read more about Nash’s mental health issues here.

Back to Princeton

Eventually, Nash was allowed to come back to Princeton University to work on mathematics and audit classes. Eventually, he was even permitted to teach again.


Alicia and John became romantically involved with each other again in the 1990s, and remarried in 2001.


In May 2015, John and Alicia Nash visited Norway, where John received the Abel Prize from King Harald of Norway. After getting back to the United States, take took a taxi from the airport, but they never reach their home in West Windsor Township, New Jersey, because the taxi driver lost control of the car and struck a guardrail on the New Jersey Turnpike, near Monroe Township.

Both Alicia and John were ejected from the car and died. According to state police, neither of them appeared to have been wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash.

This article was last updated on: October 23, 2018