Wednesday, February 2, 2011

John Nash's Thesis

You know those games where you pick the street you grew up on and add on your cousin's middle name and your first pet's name and then you have the name for a band?

This post isn't actually about that. (Though I do think "John Nash's Thesis" would be a great name for a band). This post is about those myths and legends you hear as a nascent researcher. Probably the first of these I ever heard was: "John Nash's dissertation was only four pages long."

This really is one of those legends that seems to have suffered a whisper-down-the-lane effect. Wikipedia claims it weighs in at 28 pages, on Princeton's website it is 32. Some forum contributor on claims it was only 23 pages long.

In any case, it was short, sweet, and revolutionary.

I really respect that. I've slogged through CS dissertations that were approaching 250 pages in length. By the middle you start pulling your hair out and wishing they had the brevity of John Nash.

My dissertation will not be 23 pages long. Why, the table of contents alone is pushing 30! (Just kidding!) (mostly).


  1. The thesis itself is on Princeton's website ( Wikipedia and Princeton are both right: the actual contents of the thesis itself are 28 pages; if you include the title pages and bibliography, it's 32.

  2. Yah, I know - I was going for dramatic effect. ;-)

    Actually the truth is I couldn't remember where I first heard the 4-page rumor, and google was not helpful in jogging my memory. Maybe it was that one of the NCG proofs was 4 pages.

  3. How about Einstein's one page thesis?