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'A Beautiful Mind' mathematician John Nash, wife Alicia killed in New Jersey car crash

EAST HAMPTON, NY - OCTOBER 05:  John Nash and wife Alicia Nash attend the Nobel Laureate Exhibition Reception during the 20th Hamptons International Film Festival at The Maidstone Hotel on October 5, 2012 in East Hampton, New York.  (Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images)

EAST HAMPTON, NY - OCTOBER 05: John Nash and wife Alicia Nash attend the Nobel Laureate Exhibition Reception during the 20th Hamptons International Film Festival at The Maidstone Hotel on October 5, 2012 in East Hampton, New York. (Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images)  (2012 Sonia Moskowitz)

John Forbes Nash Jr., a mathematical genius whose struggle with schizophrenia was the inspiration for the 2011 Oscar-winning film “A Beautiful Mind,” died along with his wife Alicia Nash, 82, in a car crash on the New Jersey Turnpike. He was 86.

State police said the couple, of Princeton Township, as killed in a taxi crash Saturday on their way home from the airport.

A colleague said they had just arrived home after receiving an award in Norway earlier in the week.

Russell Crowe, who portrayed Nash in "A Beautiful Mind," tweeted that he was "stunned."

"An amazing partnership," he wrote. "Beautiful minds, beautiful hearts."

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Known as brilliant and eccentric, Nash was associated with Princeton University for many years, most recently serving as a senior research mathematician. He won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1994 for his work in game theory, which offered insight into the dynamics of human rivalry. It is considered one of the most influential ideas of the 20th century.

He and Alicia, born Alicia Lopez-Harrison de Larde from El Salvador, met soon after his split with first wife Eleanor Stier while she studied physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was one of only 16 women entering the M.I.T class of 1955.

According to the PBS documentary "A Brilliant Madness," Alica's extended family was an aristocratic clan that hobnobbed with the intelligentsia of El Salvador, that spoke French, English and Spanish. Her father, a doctor, arrived to the United States in 1944 with the family following soon after. They first settled in Biloxi, Mississippi before arriving to New York City.

It was her dream to become the next Marie Curie.

Nash and Alicia met in an advanced calculus for engineering class, but did not become a couple until they met at the university's music library, where she worked.

"I walked into the classroom, and I thought he was very nice looking," she said in PBS's "A Brilliant Madness" remembering the first time she saw her husband. "He was like the fair-haired boy of the math department."

They married in February 1957 in a Roman Catholic ceremony although Nash was an atheist.

Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber said the Nashes were special members of the university community.

"John's remarkable achievements inspired generations of mathematicians, economists and scientists who were influenced by his brilliant, groundbreaking work in game theory, and the story of his life with Alicia moved millions of readers and moviegoers who marveled at their courage in the face of daunting challenges," Eisgruber said in a statement.

New Jersey State Police say the Nashes were both ejected from the cab in the crash around 4:30 p.m. Saturday in Monroe Township, about 15 miles northeast of Trenton. The cab driver was hospitalized.

Just a few days ago, Nash had received a prize from the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters in Oslo with New York University mathematician Louis Nirenberg, who said he'd chatted with the couple for an hour at the airport in Newark before they'd gotten a cab. Nirenberg said Nash was a truly great mathematician and "a kind of genius."

"We were all so happy together," Nirenberg said. "It seemed like a dream."

John David Stier, Nash's son with his first wife, said he learned of the death Sunday morning. "It's very upsetting," he said.

In an autobiography written for The Nobel Foundation Web site, Nash said delusions caused him to resign as a faculty member at M.I.T. He also spent several months in New Jersey hospitals on an involuntary basis.

However, Nash's schizophrenia diminished through the 1970s and 1980s as he "gradually began to intellectually reject some of the delusionally influenced lines of thinking," he wrote.

The 2001 film "A Beautiful Mind" won four Oscars, including best picture and best director, and generated interest in John Nash's life story. The movie was based on an unauthorized biography by Sylvia Nasar, who wrote that Nash's contemporaries found him "immensely strange" and "slightly cold, a bit superior, somewhat secretive."

Much of his demeanor likely stemmed from mental illness, which began emerging in 1959 when Alicia was pregnant with a son. The film, though, did not mention Nash older son or to the years that he and Alicia spent living together after divorcing. The couple split in 1963, then resumed living together several years later and finally remarried in 2001.

Born in Bluefield, W. Va., to an electrical engineer and a housewife, Nash had read the classic "Men of Mathematics" by E.T. Bell by the time he was in high school. He planned to follow in his father's footsteps and studied for three years at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh (now Carnegie Mellon University), but instead developed a passion for mathematics.

He then went to Princeton, where he worked on his equilibrium theory and, in 1950, received his doctorate with a dissertation on non-cooperative games. The thesis contained the definition and properties of what would later be called the Nash equilibrium.

Nash then taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for several years and held a research post at Brandeis University before eventually returning to Princeton.

A Princeton spokesman did not immediately comment.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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