Cristie's auction of John Nash's Nobel Prize

John Forbes Nash, Jr., and his wife Alicia in 2002

BLUEFIELD, W. Va. -- A handwritten note from a high school math teacher admonishing young John Forbes Nash Jr. to “organize your work … otherwise you will waste your talent” is among his prized documents up for auction in New York City Friday.

Nash’s citation for the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences highlights the auction at Christie’s. But here, in his hometown of Bluefield, West Virginia, the teacher’s reproach has sparked public interest.

The unsigned note by the teacher on a trigonometry assignment tells a teenage Nash he “will really go places if you would only organize your work – otherwise your talent will be wasted.”

On the reverse side of the lined paper, the teacher continues: “Remember: Your work is only useful insofar as it may be of use to other people.”

Christie’s expects bids to bring $500,000 to $800,000 for the “J.F. Nash” Nobel Prize diploma in its original red morocco gilt portfolio and suede-lined cloth clamshell box.

The teacher’s prescient note has no estimated value. Christie’s did not identify the teacher.

Other documents offered for auction include a group of rare 1950s offprints from Nash’s personal library  -- two of them annotated -- illustrating his first great contributions to game theory, the mathematical analysis of strategies for dealing with competitive situations in social and computer sciences.

Those items include Nash’s 1951 Princeton University doctoral thesis on game theory that led to the Nobel Prize, and a handwritten lecture on the subject he gave at the school in the 2000s.

Each of the lots in this group will be sold to benefit The National Alliance on Mental Illness. Nash was known for his decades-long battle with schizophrenia.

The Nobel Prize citation will be sold to benefit the John Nash Trust.

Nash and his wife of 58 years, Alicia Larde Nash, died in a car crash in New Jersey in 2015, only days after he had received the prestigious Abel Award in mathematics at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway. 

He was born in Bluefield on June 13, 1928, the son of Virginia (Martin) Nash, an educator in the Bluefield public schools, and John Forbes Nash Sr., an engineer with the Appalachian Power Company.

He graduated from Bluefield High School in 1945. He received his undergraduate and master’s degrees at Carnegie Tech in 1948, and his doctorate from Princeton in 1950.

The movie, “A Beautiful Mind,” starring Russell Crowe as Nash, depicted his biography. It won many awards including an Academy Award for Best Picture of the Year.

Charles Boothe is a reporter for the Bluefield, W. Va., Daily Telegraph. Reach him at cboothe@bdtonline.com

 

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