Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A00493 - Alicia Nash, Wife of John Nash, A Beautiful Mind

Alicia Nash, 82; helped Nobel laureate rebuild life

John and Alicia Nash at the Academy Awards in 2001.
John and Alicia Nash at the Academy Awards in 2001.

WASHINGTON — Alicia Nash, who studied physics in the 1950s and worked in computer science when few women entered the profession, aspired to be the next Madame Curie.
That she did not accomplish that goal didn’t seem to matter to her. What did was the well-being of her son and husband.

The stabilizing force behind John Nash, the mathematician and Nobel laureate who was plagued by schizophrenia for years, Mrs. Nash died May 23 along with her husband when the taxi in which they were riding crashed in New Jersey. She was 82. He was 86.
The couple, and their complex life together — they were married, divorced, and then married again — was the subject of a best-selling biography by Sylvia Nasar, ‘‘A Beautiful Mind,’’ in 1998. The book was made into an Oscar-winning film three years later. Jennifer Connelly, who won the Academy Award for best supporting actress, and Russell Crowe, who was nominated for best actor, played the Nashes.
Although the movie was criticized for glossing over some of the facts of the couple’s life, its power and poignancy derived in no small part from its accurate depiction of Alicia Nash’s devotion to her husband.
In 1959, they had been married barely two years when Mrs. Nash, pregnant with their only child, was forced to involuntarily commit her husband, in the throes of paranoid schizophrenic delusions, to McLean Hospital outside Boston.
What followed was nearly a decade of hospitalizations during which time Mrs. Nash, raising a child on her own, divorced her husband in 1963, though she remained his supporter.
When John Nash was discharged from another institution in 1970, and despite the dissolution of their marriage, she felt his mental health would best be served if he became a boarder at her house in Princeton, N.J. Continuity and familiarity, she understood, were critical to his stability.
‘‘They say that a lot of people are left on the back wards of mental institutions,’’ Mrs. Nash once said. ‘‘And somehow their few chances to get out go by, and they just end up there. So, that was one of the reasons I said, ‘Well, I can put you up.’ ’’
It was an offer that many said saved John Nash’s life.
She was born Alicia Lopez-Harrison de Lardé on Jan. 1, 1933, in San Salvador. Her prominent, upper-class family included her father, a physician, and an aunt, the poet Alicia Lardé de Venturino.
By 1945, the family had immigrated to the United States, first living in Biloxi, Miss., and later in New York City, where the young Miss de Larde attended the private Marymount School in Manhattan.
She did well enough over to earn a coveted spot at MIT, one of only 16 women among about 800 men in the class of 1955.
Although it had been coed since 1871, MIT was an inhospitable place for women. Even the university’s supervisor for female undergraduates, Margaret Alvort, did not support the presence of women on campus.
The petite, stylish student from Central America failed to wilt. On the first day of her course in advanced calculus for engineers, taught by Nash, she really did reopen the windows of the stuffy classroom after he had just closed them because of outside noise, a scene described in Nasar’s biography.
Only after she graduated with a degree in physics, however, did the two begin to date. They married two years later.
Alicia Nash remarried her former husband in 2001.
Alicia Esther Nash (née Lopez-Harrison de Lardé; January 1, 1933 – May 23, 2015) was the wife of mathematicianJohn Forbes Nash, Jr.. She was a mental-health care advocate, who gave up her professional aspirations to support her husband and son who were both diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Her life with Nash was chronicled in the 1998 book, A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar, as well as in the 2001 film of the same title.[1][2]

Personal life[edit]

Alicia de Larde was born January 1, 1933 in El Salvador, the daughter of Alicia (née Lopez-Harrison) and Carlos de Lardé, a doctor. She had a brother, Rolando de Lardé. Both of her parents came from socially prominent, well traveled families, who spoke several languages. Her aunt was the poet Alice Lardé Venturino; her paternal grandfather was Jorge de Lardé, a chemical engineer.[3]
When Alicia was a child, her father traveled to the United States a few times before deciding to move the family there permanently in 1944. After first settling in Mississippi, the family later moved to New York City. Alicia was accepted to the Marymount School with the help of a letter of recommendation from El Salvador's Ambassador to the United States[who?]. Following graduation from Marymount, Nash was accepted into Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from where she graduated in 1955 with a degree in physics. She was one of 16 women among approximately 800 men in M.I.T.'s Class of 1955. It was there she met her future husband, John Forbes Nash, Jr..[citation needed]
Alicia aspired to be the next Marie Curie, however; her relationship with her future husband began to consume her life when he began showing signs ofschizophrenia.[4]
Alicia is credited for providing support to her husband[by whom?]. They married in 1957. Alicia decided to commit her husband into McLean Hospital to receive psychiatric treatment for his illness. In 1959, Alicia and her husband had a son named John who was later diagnosed with schizophrenia.[5] Their marriage tumultuous from the beginning, the couple divorced in 1963. Alicia continued to help take care of her husband after their separation; the couple remarried in 2001.[citation needed]


After graduation from M.I.T., Alicia went to work for the Brookhaven Nuclear Development Corporation as a lab physicist. In the early 1960s, she worked for RCA as an aerospace engineer in the Astro Division and later worked for a short time at Con Edison as a system programmer. Years later she worked for the New Jersey Transitsystem as a computer programmer and data analyst.[citation needed] She was a member of numerous women's engineering societies.[citation needed] When the film A Beautiful Mind was released, Alicia was serving as president of M.I.T.'s Alumni Association Board.[6]

Mental health advocacy[edit]

Alicia became a spokesperson about schizophrenia and mental illness.[when?] In 2005 she was given the Luminary Award from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. She traveled around the country to discuss rights for those with mental illness, and in 2009 she met with New Jersey state lawmakers to discuss how to improve that state's mental health care system. In 2012, she was honored at the University of Texas at Austin’s John and Alicia Nash Conference for her support of those with mental illness, where she delivered the keynote address.[7][8][9]


Alicia Nash and her husband were killed in a car accident on the New Jersey Turnpike on May 23, 2015 near Monroe TownshipNew Jersey. They were on their way home after a visit to Norway, where her husband had been awarded the Abel Prize. Travelling in a taxicab from Newark Airport, the driver lost control of the cab and struck a guard rail. Both passengers were ejected from the vehicle upon impact.[10][11][12][13][14]

Portrayal in media[edit]

Alicia Nash was portrayed by Jennifer Connelly in the 2001 film A Beautiful Mind. For her performance as Alicia Nash, Connelly won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, mentioning Alicia Nash during her acceptance speech.[15][16]


The story of John Nash's life -- brilliant mathematician, troubled schizophrenic, and finally winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics -- might have had a far harsher arc if not for his wife, Alicia Larde. Sylvia Nasar, the author of the book A Beautiful Mind, believes that Nash's choice of Larde revealed that his intelligence extended beyond mathematics. "It was Nash's genius," she writes, "to choose a woman who would prove so essential to his survival."
Alicia entered Nash's life as a young M.I.T. student dazzled by a star professor. Alicia remembers the first time she saw Nash. "I walked into the classroom, and I thought he was very nice looking," she said, "he was like the fair-haired boy of the math department." He, while the less eager partner, noticed her as well. "She," John admitted later in life, "was one of the few girls that attracted my attention."
Alicia was strikingly beautiful, well groomed and feminine, wearing full skirts and very high heels. She was intellectually sharp, cosmopolitan, witty, and socially savvy. According to author Sylvia Nash, Joyce Davis, a classmate of Alicia's, described the collegiate Alicia as "an El Salvadoran princess with a sense of noblesse oblige."
%Alicia's extended family was an aristocratic clan that hobnobbed with the intelligentsia of El Salvador rather than with the country's landed oligarchy. Alicia's family spoke French and English as well as Spanish, traveled abroad, and lived well in a beautiful villa near the center of San Salvador, El Salvador's capital.
That life vanished when Alicia's father, a doctor, left for the United States in 1944. The family followed, first settling in Biloxi, Mississippi, and then in metropolitan New York City. With a reference written by the El Salvadoran ambassador to the United States, Alicia gained entry to the Marymount School, an exclusive Catholic girls school on the Upper East Side. Alicia's father, excited by his daughter's childhood dream of becoming the next Marie Curie, wrote a letter to the schoolmaster, asking her to help Alicia realize her aspiration to become a nuclear scientist. Alicia did well, becoming one of only 16 women entering the M.I.T. class of 1955.
John and Alicia met in an Advanced Calculus for Engineers class, but became a couple after Nash encountered Alicia at the university's music library, where she worked. Nasar points out that the two shared far more than an attraction: they were both close to their mothers; grew up in houses where intellectual achievement and status were supreme; and were both outsiders. These attractions pulled the two together in marriage in 1957.
%After John's sudden onset of schizophrenia, Alicia tried to hide what was going on from friends and faculty. "Alicia wanted to save his career and preserve his intellect," recalled a friend. "It was her interest to keep Nash intact." That was her intention when, pregnant, she had her husband involuntarily committed to McLean Hospital outside Boston, something that Nash bitterly resented.
"I tried to remain positive as much as I could," Alicia remembers. " And I really tried not to feel pity for myself."
After three years of familial turmoil, Alicia filed for divorce, something that the Hollywood version of Nash's life left out. With the help of her mother, Alicia raised their son John on her own. Later he, too, turned out to have schizophrenia. In 1970 a decade after the divorce and with her ex-husband struggling just to survive, Alicia took him into her home not as a husband but as what she called her " boarder."
%"They say that a lot of people are left on the back wards of mental institutions," says Alicia, speaking of her decision to take Nash in. "And somehow their few chances to get out go by and they just end up there. So, that was one of the reasons I said, 'Well, I can put you up.' "
"If she hadn' t taken him in, he would have wound up on the streets," believes Nasar. "He had no income. He had no home. I think that Alicia saved his life." In the 1980s, John slowly emerged from schizophrenia and in 1994 he received aNobel Prize in Economics for the game theory work he completed as a young man. In the spring of 2001, Alicia and John were remarried, 38 years after their divorce.
"We thought it would be a good idea," Alicia stated quite simply. "After all, we've been together most of our lives."

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