After a promising start to his mathematical career, Nash began to suffer from schizophrenia around his 30th year, an illness from which he has only recovered some 25 years later.
John Nash was born in Bluefield, West Virginia as son of John Nash Sr. and Virginia Martin. His father was an electrotechnician; his mother a language teacher. As a young boy he spent much time reading books and experimenting in his room, which he had converted into a laboratory.
From June 1945-June 1948 Nash studied at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, intending to become a technical engineer like his father. Instead, he developed a deep love for mathematics and a lifelong interest in subjects such as number theory, Diophantine equations, quantum mechanics and relativity theory. He loved solving problems.
At Carnegie he became interested in the 'negotiation problem', which John von Neumann had left unsolved in his book The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior (1928). He participated in the game theory group there.
From Pittsburgh he went to Princeton University where he worked on his equilibrium theory. He received a Ph.D. in 1950 with the dissertation Non-cooperative games. The thesis contained the definition and properties of what would later be called the Nash equilibrium; 44 years later, it would earn him the Nobel prize. His studies on this subject led to three articles, the first entitled 'Equilibrium Points in N-person Games', published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) (1950), and the others in Econometrica about The Bargaining Problem (April 1950) and 'Two-person Cooperative Games' (January 1953). The only official economic lessons he followed were a series about international trade.