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John Nash’s Nobel Prize could bring $4 million at Sotheby’s

A Nobel Prize awarded to John Nash, the mathematician depicted in the Oscar-winning film A Beautiful Mind, is heading to auction at Sotheby’s with a price of up to $4 million.

Nash, who battled paranoid schizophrenia throughout much of his life, is regarded as one of the most influential mathematicians of the 20th century.

He began his academic career at Carnegie Tech, and graduated just three years later with a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and a letter of recommendation which simply read: “Mr. Nash is nineteen years old and graduates from Carnegie Tech in June. He is a mathematical genius”.

Whilst at Princeton University in 1950 he published ‘The Bargaining Problem’, a paper based around his ideas on game theory which became known across a number of fields as the ‘Nash Equilibrium’.

Although this theory played an influential role in the study of economics, banking, defence, politics and evolutionary biology, Nash’s contributions remained relatively unheralded until 1994, when he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

His remarkable life story was then brought to life in the 1998 best-selling, Pulitzer prize-winning biography A Beautiful Mind, which was adapted in 2001 into an Academy Award-winning film starring Russell Crowe in the title role.

In a 2004 interview, Nash stated that being given the award “had a tremendous impact on my life, more than on the life of most Prize winners because I was in an unusual situation. I was unemployed at the time…And so I was in a position to be very much influenced by the recognition of my earlier work…I had become widely known, but in a sense it wasn’t officially recognized. I was quoted very frequently in the literature of economics and mathematics, but it’s quite different to get official recognition”.

Nash was tragically killed along with his wife Alicia in a car crash in 2015, and now his Nobel Prize will be offered for sale at Sotheby’s with an estimate of $2.5 – $4 million.

"It has been very gratifying to work with the Estate of John F. Nash Jr. to bring this extraordinary man’s Nobel Prize to auction," said Selby Kiffer, Senior Vice President, Books & Manuscripts. "Nash’s insights into game theory have become so pervasive that they affect our daily lives in ways in many ways, whether or not we are fully cognizant of the operation of the ‘Nash equilibrium’.

"Through the film A Beautiful Mind and Nash’s later work in the area of mental health, he has become a symbol of the triumph of the human spirit as well as an icon of twentieth-century mathematical thought. John Nash truly embodied Alfred Nobel’s stipulation that the prizes awarded in his name be given to ‘those who … shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.’"

The auction takes place at Sotheby’s in New York on October 17.

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