Sylvia Nasar

Last updated
Sylvia Nasar
Sylvia Nasar - Flickr - Knight Foundation.jpg
Nasar in 2005
Born (1947-08-17) 17 August 1947 (age 73)
Rosenheim, Allied-occupied Germany
Professor of Journalism
Signature Sylvia Nasar signature (cropped).jpg

Sylvia Nasar (born 17 August 1947) is an Uzbek German-born American journalist, best known for her biography of John Forbes Nash Jr., A Beautiful Mind . She received the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography. Nasar currently serves as Knight Professor Emirita at Columbia University's School of Journalism. [1]


Early life and history

Nasar was born in Rosenheim, Germany, to a Bavarian mother and an Uzbek father, Rusi Nasar, who later joined the CIA as an intelligence officer. Her family immigrated to the United States in 1951, then moved to Ankara, Turkey, in 1960. She graduated with a BA in literature from Antioch College in 1970 and earned a Master's degree in economics at New York University in 1976. For four years, she did research with Nobel Laureate Wassily Leontief. She joined Fortune magazine as a staff writer in 1983, became a columnist for U.S. News & World Report in 1990, and was an economic correspondent for the New York Times from 1991 to 1999. She was the first John S. and James L. Knight Professor of Business Journalism at Columbia University.

In March 2013, Nasar filed a lawsuit accusing the university of misdirecting $4.5 million in funds over the last decade from the same Knight endowment which pays her salary. The New York Times reported, "In her suit, Ms. Nasar said that after she complained about the misspent funds, [a Columbia University official] "intimidated and harassed" her by telling her that the Knight Foundation "was dissatisfied with her performance as Knight chair because Knight objected to her work on books." [2]

She has three adult children, Clara, Lily and Jack, and lives in Tarrytown, New York. Her husband is Fordham University economist Darryl McLeod. [3]

A Beautiful Mind

In 1998, Nasar published A Beautiful Mind , a biography of Nobel Prize-winning economist and mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. The book describes many aspects of Nash's life, examines his personality and motivations, and deals with the stresses placed on his personal and professional relationships by severe mental illness. However, in an interview with Paula Todd of Studio 2, Nash stated he never had CIA hallucinations, and that he only experienced hearing voices in his 40s, not at college in his 20s as depicted in the movie. [4] The book won the 1998 National Book Critics Circle Award for biography. [5]

Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius

Nasar's second book, Grand Pursuit, was published in 2011. It is a historical narrative which sets forth Nasar's view that economics rescued mankind from squalor and deprivation by placing its material circumstances in its own hands rather than in Fate. [6] It won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Science and technology. [7]

"Manifold Destiny"

On 28 August 2006 The New Yorker published Nasar's article "Manifold Destiny", which contained the only interview with Grigori Perelman, who solved the Poincaré conjecture and declined the 2006 Fields Medal. The article examined Fields Medalist Shing-Tung Yau's response to Perelman's proof. Some mathematicians wrote letters in defense of Yau over Nasar's portrayal, and Yau threatened to file a lawsuit, but no suit was filed. [8]

Awards and honors


Related Research Articles

Ogden Nash American poet

Frederic Ogden Nash was an American poet well known for his light verse, of which he wrote over 500 pieces. With his unconventional rhyming schemes, he was declared the country's best-known producer of humorous poetry.

In mathematics, the Poincaré conjecture is a theorem about the characterization of the 3-sphere, which is the hypersphere that bounds the unit ball in four-dimensional space.

John Forbes Nash Jr. American mathematician

John Forbes Nash Jr. was an American mathematician who made fundamental contributions to game theory, differential geometry, and the study of partial differential equations. Nash's work has provided insight into the factors that govern chance and decision-making inside complex systems found in everyday life.

Janet Malcolm American journalist

Janet Clara Malcolm was an American writer, journalist on staff at The New Yorker magazine, and collagist. She was the author of Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession (1981), In the Freud Archives (1984), and The Journalist and the Murderer (1990), among other books. She wrote frequently about psychoanalysis as well as the relationship of the journalist to subject and was known for her prose style as well as polarizing criticism of her own profession, though her most contentious work, The Journalist and the Murderer, became a mainstay of journalism-school curricula.

Institute for Advanced Study Postgraduate center in Princeton, New Jersey, US

The Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), located in Princeton, New Jersey, in the United States, is an independent postdoctoral research center for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. It has served as the academic home of internationally preeminent scholars, including Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Hermann Weyl, John von Neumann, and Kurt Gödel, after they immigrated to the United States.

Grigori Perelman Russian mathematician

Grigori Yakovlevich Perelman is a Russian mathematician who is known for his contributions to the fields of geometric analysis, Riemannian geometry, and geometric topology.

Richard S. Hamilton American mathematician

Richard Streit Hamilton is Davies Professor of Mathematics at Columbia University. He is known for contributions to geometric analysis and partial differential equations. He made foundational contributions to the theory of the Ricci flow and its use in the resolution of the Poincaré conjecture and geometrization conjecture in the field of geometric topology.

Harold W. Kuhn

Harold William Kuhn was an American mathematician who studied game theory. He won the 1980 John von Neumann Theory Prize along with David Gale and Albert W. Tucker. A former Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Princeton University, he is known for the Karush–Kuhn–Tucker conditions, for Kuhn's theorem, for developing Kuhn poker as well as the description of the Hungarian method for the assignment problem. Recently, though, a paper by Carl Gustav Jacobi, published posthumously in 1890 in Latin, has been discovered that anticipates by many decades the Hungarian algorithm.

Michael Massing is an American writer based in New York City. He is a former executive editor of the Columbia Journalism Review. He received a bachelor's degree from Harvard College and a master's degree from the London School of Economics. He often writes for the New York Review of Books on the media, politics, and foreign affairs. He has also written for The American Prospect, The New York Times, The Nation, The New Yorker, The Guardian, Politico, and The Atlantic. His book The Fix offers a critique of the U.S. war on drugs. Now They Tell Us: The American Press and Iraq is a collection of articles which first appeared in The New York Review of Books and analyzes the press coverage of the Iraq war. A later book, Fatal Discord: Erasmus, Luther, and the Fight for the Western Mind, concerns the rivalry between those two men and the movements they represented—Christian humanism and evangelical Christianity; The New York Times named it a Notable Book of 2018. Massing is co-founder of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and currently sits on its board. He is also a board member of the Alicia Patterson Foundation. In 1992, he was named a MacArthur Fellow, and in 2011 he was a fellow at the Leon Levy Biography Center at the City University of New York Graduate Center.

<i>A Beautiful Mind</i> (film) 2001 film by Ron Howard

A Beautiful Mind is a 2001 American biographical drama film based on the life of the American mathematician John Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economics and Abel Prize winner. The film was directed by Ron Howard, from a screenplay written by Akiva Goldsman. It was inspired by the bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-nominated 1997 book of the same name by Sylvia Nasar. The film stars Russell Crowe, along with Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Paul Bettany, Adam Goldberg, Judd Hirsch, Josh Lucas, Anthony Rapp, and Christopher Plummer in supporting roles. The story begins in Nash's days as a graduate student at Princeton University. Early in the film, Nash begins to develop paranoid schizophrenia and endures delusional episodes while watching the burden his condition brings on his wife Alicia and friends.

<i>A Beautiful Mind</i> (book)

A Beautiful Mind (1998) is a biography of Nobel Prize-winning economist and mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr. by Sylvia Nasar, professor of journalism at Columbia University. An unauthorized work, it won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1998 and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in biography. It inspired the 2001 film by the same name.

Stacy Schiff

Stacy Madeleine Schiff is an American former editor, essayist, and author of five biographies; her biography of Vera Nabokov, the wife and muse of the Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov, won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize in biography.

"Manifold Destiny" is an article in The New Yorker written by Sylvia Nasar and David Gruber and published in the 28 August 2006 issue of the magazine. It claims to give a detailed account of some of the circumstances surrounding the proof of the Poincaré conjecture, one of the most important accomplishments of 20th and 21st century mathematics, and traces the attempts by three teams of mathematicians to verify the proof given by Grigori Perelman.

Arthur Paul Mattuck is an emeritus professor of mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He may be best known for his 1998 book, Introduction to Analysis (ISBN 013-0-81-1327) and his differential equations video lectures featured on MIT's OpenCourseWare.

<i>Is There No Place on Earth for Me?</i>

Is There No Place On Earth For Me? written by Susan Sheehan and published in 1982 by Houghton Mifflin, it won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. This book recounts the lonely, harrowing life of Sylvia Frumkin who is diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Katherine Boo

Katherine "Kate" J. Boo is an American investigative journalist who has documented the lives of people in poverty. She has won the MacArthur "genius" award (2002) and the National Book Award for Nonfiction (2012), and her work earned the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for The Washington Post. She has been a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine since 2003. Her book Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity won nonfiction prizes from PEN, the Los Angeles Times Book Awards, the New York Public Library, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, in addition to the National Book Award for Nonfiction.

Jill Lepore American historian

Jill Lepore is an American historian. She is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University and a staff writer at The New Yorker, where she has contributed since 2005. She writes about American history, law, literature, and politics.

Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences Award

The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, officially the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, is an economics prize administered by the Nobel Foundation. While it is not one of the Nobel Prizes, which were established by Alfred Nobel's will in 1895, it is commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize in Economics. The prize was established in 1968 by a donation from Sweden's central bank Sveriges Riksbank to the Nobel Foundation to commemorate the bank's 300th anniversary. It is administered and referred to along with the Nobel Prizes by the Nobel Foundation. Laureates are announced with the Nobel Prize laureates, and receive the award at the same ceremony.

Elizabeth Hawes (author)

Elizabeth (“Betsy”) Hawes is an American writer of biography, journalism and creative non-fiction.

Alicia Esther Nash was a Salvadoran-American physicist. The wife of mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr., she was a mental-health care advocate, who gave up her professional aspirations to support her husband and son who were both diagnosed with schizophrenia.


  1. "Columbia Journalism School". .External link in |website= (help)
  2. HAUGHNEY, CHRISTINE (19 March 2013). "Journalism Professor Sues Columbia, Claiming Misuse of Endowment Funds". The New York Times . Retrieved 20 March 2013.
  3. Nasar, Sylvia (1998). A Beautiful Mind. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. p. 442. ISBN   9781451628425.
  4. "A Beautiful Mind (review)". Archived from the original on 4 April 2012. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Prizes for Science Books previous winners and shortlists, The Royal Society website Archived February 1, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  6. "Sylvia Nasar » Grand Pursuit". Retrieved 2017-03-22.
  7. "Book Prizes – Los Angeles Times Festival of Books» 2011 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes Winners & Finalists". Archived from the original on 2016-04-16. Retrieved 2017-03-22.
  8. "The Poincaré Clash". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2017-03-22.