Famed mathematician John Nash, whose struggles with schizophrenia inspired the movie “A Beautiful Mind,” died Saturday with his wife in a New Jersey Turnpike car crash.
Nash, 86, and wife Alicia Nash, 82, were on their way back to their Princeton home after a trip to Norway to receive an award.
The taxicab carrying the couple from Newark Airport was traveling southbound on the New Jersey Turnpike at 4:30 p.m. when the vehicle got into an accident, state police Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Williams told the Daily News.
Russell Crowe, who portrayed Nash in the 2001 Oscar-winning film, said he was “stunned.”
“An amazing partnership,” he wrote of Nash and his wife. “Beautiful minds, beautiful hearts.”
The driver of the Ford Crown Victoria taxi carrying the couple was in the left lane trying to pass another vehicle when the cab veered out of control, according to Williams.
The taxi struck a guardrail, as did the other car, a Chrysler. Both Nash and his wife were ejected from the vehicle, Williams said.
“Preliminary info indicates that John and Alicia Nash were likely not wearing seatbelts when ejected in turnpike crash yesterday afternoon,” the state police tweeted Sunday.
According to the preliminary investigation, Nash and his wife may have been hit by the second car after they were thrown to the ground, authorities said.
The taxi driver was identified by NJ.com as Tark Girgis, 46, of Elizabeth, N.J.
First responders pulled him from the wreckage, and he was flown to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick with nonlife-threatening injuries, police said.
Girgis voluntarily submitted to drug and alcohol tests, Williams said.
A spokesman for the Middlesex County prosecutor’s office said no charges were expected to be filed in the case, according to NJ.com.
A female passenger in the Chrysler complained of pain and was taken to the University Medical Center of Princeton in Plainsboro Township, cops said.
Nash, who shared the 1994 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, taught at Princeton University.
John Stier, Nash’s son with his first wife, told The Associated Press he learned of the death Sunday morning.
“It’s very upsetting,” said Stier.
A group of about seven relatives was spotted standing outside the Nashes’ tidy home Sunday, talking to police (photo inset, left) but ignoring reporters.
The couple had a second son, named Johnny Nash, and the three of them lived there for more than 20 years.
The 56-year-old Johnny also battles schizophrenia and his parents cared for him and helped him cope with his illness, neighbors said.
“They were a close family. It’s very sad. It’s going to be hard for him (Stier),” said Christina Adams-Jackson, 61. “They were a lovely couple. We are going to miss them.”
Another neighbor said he drove past the accident Saturday afternoon, never dreaming the private, polite Nashes were the two victims.
“I was driving home. I noticed the traffic slowed down. You see the lights, the emergency vehicles. You see 25 to 30 yards of debris. The taxi was a mess. The trunk was ripped off,” said John Kelly, 71, adding that he was worried about their son.
“He’s going to struggle,” he said.
Nash’s colleagues at Princeton University were equally shocked and saddened.
“John’s remarkable achievements inspired generations of mathematicians, economists and scientists who were influenced by his brilliant, groundbreaking work in game theory, and the story of his life with Alicia moved millions of readers and moviegoers who marveled at their courage in the face of daunting challenges,” said Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber.
Ron Howard directed the acclaimed film that chronicled Nash’s descent into schizophrenia as he worked and studied at MIT and Princeton.
“RIP Brilliant #NobelPrize winning John Nash & and his remarkable wife Alicia. It was an honor telling part of their story #ABeautifulMind,” Howard tweeted.
The movie was hailed for its sensitive depiction of the travails of mental illness and how it can ravage an otherwise happy family.
Jennifer Connelly played Alicia Nash, who battled to care for herhusband when his illness grew severe.
In the 1970s, Nash’s condition deteriorated to the point where he would wander the Princeton campus and leave cryptic formulas on blackboards. The odd behavior earned him the nickname “The Phantom” by Princeton students.
By the 1980s, the West Virginia native found his schizophrenia was lessening and he went back to teaching.
The Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters gave a prize to Nash and New York University Prof. Louis Nirenberg in Oslo on Tuesday.
Nirenberg told The Associated Press he’d chatted with the couple for an hour at Newark Airport before they’d gotten a cab home.
Nash was a truly great mathematician and “a kind of genius,” Nirenberg said.
“We were all so happy together,” the NYU professor said. “It seemed like a dream.”
Source: NY Daily News