Proposal & Annotated Bibliography

According to the American Psychiatry Association, “Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that affects a person’s ability to think, feel, and behave clearly. It is a mental disorder that is characterized by thoughts or experiences that seem out of touch with reality, disorganized speech or behavior, and a decreased participation in daily activities.” While there is no cure for schizophrenia, lifelong treatments are common, often involving a combination of medications, psychotherapy, and specialty care services. While schizophrenia affects less than one percent of Americans, there is one extraordinary example of a man who overcame the challenges associated with the mental illness in the pursuit of academic excellence. That man is John Forbes Nash Jr.

I plan to study how John Nash dealt with schizophrenia throughout his life. In 1959, Nash was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia after being admitted to McLean Hospital, which marked the beginning of a dark period in his life where he struggled with the symptoms associated with his mental illness. For the next three decades Nash would retreat from society, disappearing from academic and public circles as he dealt with his condition with the support of his wife, Alicia. Nash later appeared in 1994 as the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Economic Science, before going on to win other award based on his work on mathematics. Afterwards Nash went on to become a sensation with the release of an unauthorized biography that was later adapted into an Academy Award winning film that focused on his life and experiences with schizophrenia. I plan to examine interviews and documentaries made about Nash and his contributions to academia and his personal life to create a short documentary of my own covering his experience as an individual with schizophrenia, and how he overcame the mental illness to continue doing what he loved despite his condition forcing him into seclusion.


  1. Arshad, Marium, and Michael Fitzgerald. “Did Nobel Prize Winner John Nash Have Asperger’s Syndrome and Schizophrenia?” Irish Psychiatrist 3, no. 3 (2002): 90–94.

    Arshad and Fitzgerald examine John Nash’s case as someone with schizophrenia, arguing that the Nobel Prize winner may have also had Asperger’s syndrome. Nash was first diagnosed with “paranoid schizophrenia” in 1958 according to DSM specifications, when studies related to mental health categorization were still being developed. Arshad and Fitzgerald point out that many of Nash’s social cues and impairments fit the description of Asperger’s. Though they make this case, they do not deny Nash’s experiences with schizophrenia, since it is possible he had both disorders. This is written for people who are at least somewhat knowledgeable of John Nash, yet is a very niche subject matter pertaining to his condition and the ambiguity of mental diagnosis. It is a useful resource that points out the limitations of mental health diagnosis in the 1950s, when Nash was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and provides a good starting point in my research to understanding Nash’s experiences and symptoms.

  2. Beam, Alex. Gracefully Insane : The Rise and Fall of America’s Premier Mental Hospital. New York: Public Affairs, 2001.

    Beam’s book includes the history of McLean Mental Hospital, which is one of the more famous places John Nash was committed in his life. I plan to use this book to examine the medical treatments used in the 1950s and determine why Nash had an aversion to drug treatments for his mental illness.

  3. Bhati, Mahendra T. “Defining Psychosis: The Evolution of DSM-5 Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders.” Current Psychiatry Reports 15, no. 11 (September 22, 2013).

    In 2013, Bhati published this article examining the evolution of the DSM’s understanding and diagnosis of schizophrenia. The year Bhati published this corresponds with the year the DSM-5 was published. Furthermore, Bhati’s analysis is merely a starting point in my research to understanding the history of schizophrenia, it’s diagnosis, and how the DSM and APA’s clinical understanding of the mental disorder has changed over time.

  4. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual: Mental Disorders. 1st ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 1952.

    This is the original edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published in 1952. This text was the first instance wherein psychologists and mental health professionals attempted to categorize and understand the various types of mental disorders and conditions that had presented in people over the year. This work is written by professionals, intended for professionals, yet is a valuable source in understanding how the APA saw the mental disorders included in the text. Since I will be focusing on John Nash and his experiences with schizophrenia, I wanted to use this text to see firsthand how Nash was diagnosed since this version of the DSM was the only one in existence when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

  5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders : DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association, 2013.

    This is the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Published in 2013, the DSM-5 is the most current source on mental disorders compiled by the APA. In my research I became interested in comparing how different schizophrenia, and later Asperger’s syndrome, differ throughout the years and the classifications that lead to diagnosis. In the case of John Nash, I wish to compare the information found here with that of the DSM-1 to better understand the history of schizophrenia and how his experiences may differ from someone diagnosed with schizophrenia today. I plan to use this as an example, because what little I have had time to read is very different from the DSM-1 information pertaining to schizophrenia.

  6. Funaki, Tevita. “Nash: Genius with Schizophrenia or Vice Versa?” Journal of Community Health and Clinical Medicine for the Pacific 15, no. 2 (November 2009): 129–37.

    Funaki’s article examines the portrayal of schizophrenia in A Beautiful Mind (2001) and examines how Nash, as well as other patients with schizophrenia, coped with the mental illness and how they self-medicated. Funaki claims it was the unconditional support of his wife, Alicia, and his own determination and self discovery of what is real and not real that enabled him to successfully deal with schizophrenia. I found this argument fascinating because Nash lost his job in the 1950s because of his schizophrenic episodes. He spent time in and out of asylums and refused to take his medication as far back as 1970, being supported by his wife, and went on to become a Nobel Prize winner. It speaks of the personal journey Nash underwent, and his strength of character when faced the consequences of his mental illness. I plan to use this article when discussing Nash’s struggles as well as his coping mechanisms.

  7. Grazer, Brian, Ron. Howard, Akiva. Goldsman, Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer. Connelly, Paul Bettany, et al. A Beautiful Mind. Universal City, CA: Distributed by Universal Studios, 2006.

    This is a DVD copy of the film A Beautiful Mind (2001) I acquired from my local library. The film stars Russell Crowe as John Nash and portrays the life of Nash as seen in Sylvia Nasar’s novel of the same name. I plan to use the film to show a Hollywood adaptation of Nash’s life in my documentary.

  8. Heidelberg Laureate Forum. “A Mind on Strike – Remembering John Nash.” YouTube, June 29, 2017.

    This is a video created by the Heidelberg Laureate Forum not long after Nash’s death in 2015. The video focuses on Nash’s achievements, covering the awards he won over the course of his life. The video also covers the impact schizophrenia had on his life and those around him, including interviews from people who knew Nash in his personal and professional lives. I wish to use this video for my documentary, because it includes many good excerpts from interviews about Nash, as well as videos of him in an everyday setting, which contrasts greatly from other footage about Nash online.

  9. Jackson, Allyn. “Interview with Raoul Bott.” Notices of the American Mathematical Society 48, no. 4 (April 2001): 374–82.

    Raoul Bott is a researcher in geometry and topology, as well as a contemporary of John Nash who attended classes alongside Nash at Carnegie Tech, Princeton, and MIT. Bott describes Nash as being someone who did not have friends, yet the two interacted quite often and talked about mathematics. Bott says in the interview that Nash would send him postcards when he had a “bad bout” related to his mental illness. Bott says he admires Nash, and that he had a brilliant mind that was marred by his “disease.” This source is important because it is from an outside observers perspective, someone who worked alongside Nash in a similar field of mathematics and saw firsthand how schizophrenia affected him.

  10. Kalarritis, George. “A Brilliant Madness. The Story of John Nash (2002) HD.” YouTube Video. YouTube, December 31, 2016.

    This video does not belong to George Kalarritis, and is instead a republished version of the original PBS documentary about John Nash, title “A Brilliant Madness.” I cite Kalarritis’s version because his YouTube channel was the only place to find this documentary, since PBS has moved or removed many of their old publications over the years. PBS still mentions this documentary on their website, but the only way to watch it outside of this YouTube video is to obtain a physical DVD copy, which are hard to come by. Kalarritis published this video in order to make it accessible for educational resources, which is what I intend to use it for. “A Brilliant Madness” offers insight into the life of John Nash and is intended to educate an audience with little knowledge about Nash, his contributions to economic science, and his experiences with schizophrenia. Outside of being an excellent source of information, I only plan to use this video in my own video documentary since it is one of the few examples where Nash allowed information about his life to be released to the public.

  11. Kuhn, Harold W., Sylvia Nasar, and John F. Nash. The Essential John Nash. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2002.

    In contrast to Sylvia Nasar’s A Beautiful Mind (1996), this work is an autobiographical account of Nash’s work in mathematics, with a brief account about his early life. This book is full of complex arithmetic, demonstrating Nash’s contributions to game theory, pure mathematics, including Riemannian geometry and partial differential equations. Most of the mathematics go over my head, but this book also includes a photo essay with a lot of personal information provided by Nash. This book, most of which is written by Nash himself, is one of the only personal accounts I could find from him, making it essential to understanding him as a person.

  12. Livio, Susan K. “Mathematician John Nash and Family Advocate for Mental Health Care.” NJ Advance Media, March 15, 2009.

    According to this article, John and Alicia Nash were advocates for mental health care outside of hospitals and asylums. According to Livio, John and Alicia are likened to heroes because they were one of the first public figures who would lend their stature and put their name to the cause of breaking down stereotypes and humanizing people with mental illness. As a prominent mathematician and the figure whom an Academy Award winning movie was based upon, the Nashes were in the perfect spotlight to advocate for better care of mental patients. This is especially true considering their son was also diagnosed with schizophrenia. This article is one of the few examples I could find about the Nashes after the movie’s release that was not directly related to the film. It shows that they did not let the publicity go to their heads and tried to bring awareness to their cause, rather than romanticize it in the way Hollywood tends to do.

  13. McGraw Hill Higher Education. “Beautiful Minds: An Interview with John Nash and Son.” AVI File. McGraw Hill, 2004.

    This short interview with John Nash and his son discusses Nash and his son’s experiences, both who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. The interview also covers their opinion of the film made about Nash and what they think Hollywood got right and wrong about his condition. I plan to use this video for my documentary, as if is one of the few sources of video related to Nash.

  14. Nasar, Sylvia. A Beautiful Mind: A Biography of John Forbes Nash, Jr., Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, 1994. New York, N.Y.: Simon & Schuster, 1998.

    A Beautiful Mind is Sylvia Nasar’s biography on John Forbes Nash Jr., and is one of the few sources for information on Nash and his experience and struggle with mental health. The book starts in Nash’s childhood before covering his years at Princeton and MIT, his work for the RAND Corporation, his family and his struggle with schizophrenia. Nasar’s work is considered to be the definitive source on Nash’s life, being one of many works she has written about him. Since the movie is based off this book, I plan to look more into how Hollywood interpreted Nash’s life, and will take advantage of Nasar’s meticulous research on Nash as a person when creating my documentary project.

  15. Nasar, Sylvia. “The Lost Years of a Nobel Laureate (Published 1994).” The New York Times, November 13, 1994, sec. Business.

    Nasar recounts the “lost years” of John Nash’s life. Nash had been singled out from a young age in newspapers for his intellect and heralded as being one of the next great mathematicians. Unfortunately it was around that time that Nash began to suffer severely from his schizophrenia, leading to his quitting his job in 1959 and subsequently falling off the radar. His illness was an open secret in the scholarly community and many outside Princeton even though the man had died, so it was a surprise when Nash reappeared over thirty years later as a Nobel Prize winner. This article puts Nash’s life into context, specifically how his schizophrenia interfered with his personal and professional life. I plan to use this article in my documentary, since it appeared in the New York Times in 1994, well before Nash’s biography and the film adaptation were released.

  16. Nasar, Sylvia. “The Sum of a Man.” The Guardian, March 26, 2002.

    Nasar recounts her own personal experiences with Nash, as his biographer and later as his friend. She explains how far he had fallen due to his mental illness and that by the time he had won the Nobel Prize in 1994 that he was still shy and unsure of himself after thirty years of dealing with schizophrenia. This article provides a personal account from Nasar, who spent a lot of time looking into the details of Nash’s life, interviewing family and friends to create a comprehensive narrative of his life when no one else would give him the time of day. I plan to use this article when talking about Nash’s experiences, because Nasar provides a great outsider perspective on a man she sought to show to the world.

  17. Nash, John. John F. Nash, Jr. – Interview. Interview by The Nobel Foundation. The Nobel Foundation, September 2004.

    This is a video of an interview conducted by the Nobel Foundation in 2004 regarding the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences that Nash was awarded in 1994. During this interview Nash talks about his experiences with schizophrenia and his aversion to drug-based treatments, something of which he disagrees with the depiction of in the film. He also claims that the film is not totally accurate in the interpretation of schizophrenia, specially the way the film uses delusions. However he admits that a film is limited, and mental health is a hard thing to portray on-screen. I found this source really valuable, because it includes Nash’s views on the film made about him, and has him explaining why he agrees and disagrees with the portrayal. If hope to use part of this interview in my documentary, but if I do not I still plan to cite this interview as a primary source.

  18. Sabbagh, Karl. Dr. Riemann’s Zeros: The Search for the $1 Million Solution to the Greatest Problem in Mathematics. London: Atlantic Books, 2002.

    This book includes a section dedicated to John Nash’s contributions to mathematics, and references his mental illness. It is a less complex approach than the written by Nash and appears to have been written with a much wider audience in mind. I plan to use this book to get a better grasp on Nash’s work and why it is considered to be so great.

  19. Schultz, Susan K. “Conclusions: Late-Life Schizophrenia.” Harvard Review of Psychiatry 9, no. 2 (January 2001): 84–87.

    Schultz examines influences and factors that lead to late-life schizophrenia. I found this source interesting because John Nash did not start having major issues with schizophrenia until his thirties through his fifties, during which time he appeared to get better. Schultz explains why some patients are more prone to suffering from schizophrenia later in life due to family history and genetics and how it can present differently in patients. This source is written for an audience familiar with psychology and is a valuable resource when paired with the information in the DSM.

  20. Stossel, Sage. “The Asylum on the Hill.” The Atlantic, January 4, 2002.

    This article discusses McLean Asylum, which is the asylum John Nash spent time in and out of for most of his life. McLean Asylum is best known for having many high profile patients over the years, and is associated with Harvard Medical School. This article provides a brief history of the asylum and is a starting point for my research into the place.

  21. Weiden, Peter J. “Why Did John Nash Stop His Medication?” Journal of Psychiatric Practice 8, no. 6 (November 2002): 386–92.

    John Nash was opposed to the idea of drug treatments for his schizophrenia. The only time he took medication was when he was involuntarily committed, but he fully stopped taking medication in 1970. Nash was institutionalized eleven times between 1959 and 1970, and hated every one of them. Weiden emphasizes the importance of compliance when it comes to medicine based treatments, and that the nature of these treatments fifty years ago are what led to Nash’s refusal and later opposition to drugs for schizophrenia patients. I plan to use this source when discussing Nash’s treatments and motivations, especially since he disagreed with his son, who also has schizophrenia, who accepted drug treatments.