It was fitting that Sylvia Nasar’s talk on Nobel Prize Laureate John Nash Jr. took place in Rush Rhees Library Tuesday afternoon. After his promising career was cut short after a debilitating bout with schizophrenia that lasted 30 years, Nash found his only refuge within the walls of a library.

“The library is one of societies’ most inclusive communities,” Nasar said. “The Princeton libraries served as a refuge [for Nash] when he had no other place to go. For years librarians were among [Nash’s] only friends.”

The talk, part of the Nelly Series, was supposed to be held in the Welles Brown room but an overwhelming turnout of over 300 people forced library officials to relocate the speech into a larger area on the first floor of the library. People began arriving for the talk over an hour before it was scheduled to begin and the room filled to capacity half an hour before the lecture.

“We just don’t know how exciting some of our speakers will become as the year evolves,” Dean of the Libraries Ron Dow said. “And with Sylvia on top of the New York Times best seller list and a popular movie [based on the book] in the movie theaters this is a wonderful opportunity for us.”

Nash was one of the greatest scientists of his era and won a Nobel Prize in 1993.

Throughout her talk, Nasar returned to Nash’s life paraphrasing the new awarding winning biography, relying on quotes

She said she was drawn to Nash’s story because of the similarities between it and Greek mythology about a heroes brilliant assent and spectacular fall.

“[The difference] is that there are almost no stories with third acts,” she said. “The idea that this man could come back and win a Nobel and that he did so through the help of [those who cared and] never stopped seeing him as a valuable human being.”

The lecture’s popularity can be largely explained by the Ron Howard film that is currently in theaters. It is loosely based on Nasar’s work. The movie has been nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

“We saw the movie and are planning to read the book. He has lived such an interesting life and we wanted to learn more,” Rochester resident Marchel Berggusit said.

Some movie critics have criticized the movie for not staying closer to the life of Nash. Nasar took a different position ? acknowledging the difference between her work and the movie but argued the movie stayed right on line with the biography in its message.

“It is amazing and wonderful movie,” Nasar said. “There is a reason why it has touched so many people. Even though the story has been fictionalized a little, the movie is so true to the spirit of this story and is an incredible accomplishment.”

Hildebrandt can be reached at thildebrandt@campustimes.org.



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