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May
24

Am I related to the late J. Nash?

Ἀνδρῶν γὰρ ἐπιφανῶν πᾶσα γῆ τάφος

Am I related to the late J. Nash?

Indeed I am. Of course, everybody may be said to be related to such influential personalities -one way or another. But I have a bit stronger (and weirder) connection than that.

Professor R.J. Duffin taught mathematics in Carnegie Mellon. He is now famous for (among other things) the shortest Letter of Recommendation ever written: “This man is a genius”. “This man” was none other than John Nash, a student of him at that time in Carnegie Mellon who wished to continue his studies in Princeton back in 1948, almost half a century before he won the Nobel Prize in 1994.

Some years later, after sending Nash to Princeton, the very same legendary professor R.J. Duffin found another student who reminded him of Nash. Back in the 70’s, after the said student solved intuitively a multidimensional cube problem with ease, Duffin exclaimed in front of his class “I have met only one similar case in my career”. The class of course asked who was that other past student of him to which Duffin replied that “You don’t know him, he is a brilliant man but has some problems now”, referring of course to the still unknown J. Nash. It was the 70’s and Nash was, of course, almost a nobody.

But who was this new student of Duffin that reminded him of Nash? It was Demetrios Lekkas studying at that time mathematics in Carnegie Mellon. Demetrios Lekkas, a student on scholarship from Greece, had begun studying Physics in Carnegie Mellon only to demand from the Dean, before the first semester was even over, to “study a serious science, NOT physics”. He was offered the opportunity to continue by studying mathematics, which he accepted as he considered mathematics “an easy topic”. Composing music was his thing and the fact that mathematics was “an easy topic” –easy for him that is– was a relief.

From then on, Lekkas and Nash developed a sort of an intellectual bond, something like (distant) spiritual brothers. They have communicated repeatedly by correspondence, but the health problems of Nash prevented further communication or collaboration.

While having already dedicated my career to the work of Lekkas (see attached LINK), a mysterious phone-conversation between Lekkas and my father some hours before my dad passed away (even though at that point he seemed fine) set Lekkas as a kind of spiritual father to me. My father did not know who Lekkas was, and it was one of the last things he said. In an intellectual reality, we all are a kind of family now I guess.

What about Lekkas’ work? Who is Lekkas anyway? Suffice to say that the world has no idea what his work is or how important it will be for the next generations. The least known “spiritual brother” of Nash will become the cornerstone of future “science”. This is my estimation. I could be wrong. Who knows!

It so happens that today, the day that J. Nash passed away, it was the day I had planned to present the “Introduction to the epistemology of D. Lekkas” in a symposium (party!) I want to organize to honour D. Lekkas and what he has done for me. Due to a series of events it has been postponed for next Sunday, which is really fortunate after today’s tragic news.

RIP J. Nash.

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