Childhood & Early Life
Alicia Nash was born as Alicia ¬ Esther Lopez-Harrison de Lardé on January 1, 1933, in San Salvador, El Salvador into the socially prominent, well-travelled family of Alicia (née Lopez-Harrison) and Carlos Lardé. Her father was a physician, her aunt was the internationally recognized poet Alice Lardé de Venturino, and her paternal grandfather was Jorge Lardé, a chemical engineer.
Her father, who often travelled to the United States, decided to permanently relocate there with his family, which included two boys named Carlos and Rolando Lardé, in 1944. They initially lived in Biloxi, Mississippi, but eventually settled in New York City, where Alicia was accepted into Marymount School thanks to a letter of recommendation from El Salvador's Ambassador to the United States.
Her childhood dream was to become the next Marie Curie, which her father mentioned in a letter to the schoolmistress, asking her to help Alicia realize her aspiration to become a nuclear scientist. Alicia performed well and became one of only 16 women to be accepted into Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1955, from where she graduated with a major in physics.
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Following graduation from MIT, Alicia Nash began working for the Brookhaven Nuclear Development Corporation as a lab physicist. During the early 1960s, she worked for RCA as an aerospace engineer, but was laid off.
She then served as a system programmer at Con Edison for years before joining the New Jersey Transit system as a computer programmer and data analyst. She was a member of numerous women's engineering societies and was the president of MIT's Alumni Association Board when the film A Beautiful Mind was released.
She later became a spokesperson for schizophrenia and mental illness, travelling around the country discussing rights of mental illness patients and met with New Jersey state lawmakers in 2009 to discuss mental health care system.
She was given the Luminary Award from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation in 2005 and was honored at the University of Texas at Austin's John and Alicia Nash Conference in 2012.
Personal Life & Legacy
Alicia Nash first met her future husband, John Forbes Nash, Jr., in an Advanced Calculus for Engineers class at MIT where he was a mathematics instructor, and found him attractive immediately after entering the classroom. While he later admitted that she “was one of the few girls that attracted my attention”, they did not become a couple until he encountered her again at the university's music library.
Back in 1951, John Nash was romantically involved with Eleanor Stier, a nurse he met while admitted as a patient, and even fathered a son with her named John David Stier. However, he left her after she revealed about her pregnancy and is thought to have abandoned her because he believed that her social status was below his.
Even though he had started to show early signs of mental illness, which Alicia described as his erratic behavior, the couple got married in February 1957 in an Episcopal church, despite him being an atheist. Their son, John Charles Martin Nash, who would also develop schizophrenia as an adult, was born on May 20, 1959, but was not named for a year because his father was in hospital.
During her pregnancy, John began to show signs of full-blown paranoia and cognitive disorganization, which affected his professional life during his incomprehensible American Mathematical Society lecture at Columbia University in early 1959, prompting his resignation. He was involuntarily committed to McLean Hospital outside Boston to receive psychiatric treatment shortly before his son’s birth and spent 50 days in the hospital, which he bitterly resented.
He subsequently “travelled to Europe and attempted to gain status there as a refugee”, with a plan to renounce his U.S. citizenship, but Alicia retrieved him and sent him back to the United States. Psychiatrically diagnosed as “schizophrenic” or “paranoid schizophrenic”, he spent varying durations throughout almost a decade at various psychiatric hospitals, including the New Jersey State Hospital at Trenton in 1961.
The stress of dealing with his illness prompted her to file for divorce on the day after Christmas in 1962 and it was finalized the following year. By 1965, she hoped to marry another math professor, John Coleman Moore, a friend of the couple; however, after John's mother died in 1968, he pressed her to allow him to live with her.
Instead of leaving him “on the back wards of mental institutions”, Alicia took John into her home not as a husband but as what she called her "boarder”, and continued to take care of him. Author Sylvia Nash, who wrote the biographical book A Beautiful Mind, stated that Alicia saved her then ex-husband’s life as “he would have wound up on the streets”, having no income or home.
She took him to the place where he was the happiest and supported him continuously, which gave him the stability he needed to learn how to consciously discard his paranoid delusions. Not only he was allowed to teach again, he received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1994 and shared the Abel Prize with Louis Nirenberg in 2015.
The couple eventually resumed their relationship and remarried in 2001, regarding which she mentioned, “We thought it would be a good idea, after all, we've been together most of our lives”. Her son, fondly referred to as "Johnny", also went to MIT, and despite his lack of a high school or college diploma, was accepted into Rutgers University and earned a PhD in mathematics.
Alicia and John Nash died when their taxi driver lost control of the car and crashed into a guardrail in Monroe Township on their way home from Newark Liberty International Airport on May 23, 2015. Asked about the sudden loss of both his parents, her son later said “They were getting old -- they were in their 80s. They died quickly, together. I am at peace with their death.”