New Jersey

US mathematician John Nash, who inspired the Oscar-winning film A Beautiful Mind, has died in a car crash, local media has reported.

Nash, 86, and his wife Alicia were both killed when their taxi crashed in New Jersey, the reports said. The mathematician is renowned for his work in game theory, winning the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994.

His breakthroughs in maths - and his struggles with schizophrenia - were the focus of the film. Russell Crowe, who played him in the film, tweeted: ‘Stunned... My heart goes out to John & Alicia & family. An amazing partnership. Beautiful minds, beautiful hearts.’ Alicia Nash helped care for her husband, and the two later became prominent mental health advocates.

Media reports said the couple may not have been wearing seatbelts when they crashed. Nash married Alicia Larde in 1957, when he was a rising star in the maths world. But he developed severe schizophrenia soon after, and Alicia had him committed several times, with the pair divorcing in 1962. They stayed close, and his condition had begun to improve by the 1980s. The two remarried in 2001. Earlier this week, Nash received the Abel Prize, another top honour in the field of mathematics. If you have ever tried to haggle over a price, you may have unknowingly engaged in some of the logic employed in game theory.

The subject can be described as the mathematical study of decision-making, conflict and strategy in social situations. The “game” is an attempt to model the decision-making process, those making the choices and what those outcomes might be.

It has huge applications, with everything from dating sites to auctions of sports rights using its ideas. The Nash Equilibrium, for which John Nash won his Nobel Prize, describes situations where it is of no benefit for players in a complex game to change strategy, when they consider others’. It helps explain evolutionary stability, for example. The Abel Fanfare, composed by Klaus Sandvik, was performed by musicians from the Staff Band of the Norwegian Armed Forces as the Abel Laureates entered the University Aula. They were accompanied by members of the Abel committee, the chair of the Abel board and the president of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.

H.M. the King entered the Aula escorted by Ole Petter Ottersen, rector at the University of Oslo, and Øivind Andersen, secretary general of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. As a prelude to the award ceremony the audience was invited on a journey into the history of the Abel Prize presented in pictures and words. The president of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters Kirsti Strøm Bull also dwelled on the history of the prize in her opening speech. The first initiative to establish a mathematical prize in the name of Niels Henrik Abel was taken by another Norwegian mathematician, Sophus Lie, already in 1898. But it would take more than 100 years before the Abel Prize became a reality in 2002. Interestingly enough there is a mathematical connection between Sophus Lie and this year’s Abel Laureates, Kirsti Strøm Bull explained.