Mathematical Masterpieces #1

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But sometimes I’d feel more fulfilled
Making Christmas cards with the mentally ill

The Smiths — Frankly, Mr Shankly

Have you ever seen “A Beautiful Mind”? Then you heard of John F. Nash, a brilliant mathematician who went mad and only recovered from shizophrenia some 30 years later. He and his wife died in 2015 in a car accident after returning from an award-ceremony where he got the Abel prize, one of the most prestigious prizes in mathematics. The movie understandably only mentions one topic of his mathematical research, the one he got the Nobel prize in economics for. What is probably not so well-known to the general public is that this is the least important and influential of his works — at least from a mathematicians viewpoint. This postcard is made from pieces of his article “Continuity of Solutions of Elliptic and Parabolic Equations” from 1958 in which he showed that solutions of important classes of partial differential equations are “regular”. Seminal as it was, another outstanding mathematician published similar results a few months earlier, Italian analyst Ennio de Giorgi. Rumor has it that this was one of the causes that drove him to madness.


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