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May 18, 2011 / winnieoctavia

A Beautiful Mind – The Draft (Biography)

Biography of John Forbes Nash

Images from: http://bestuff.com/stuff/john-forbes-nash-jr

A Beautiful Mind is a biography of a mathematician, John Forbes Nash written by Sylvia Nasar. I believed that everyone knows what is a biography. It defines as ‘a written account of another person’s life’ in dictionary.com. Indeed in this chapter of the book, it has full details of what was going on in Nash’s life. This particular chapter was written in the 1950-1951 when Nash was trying all he could to avoid draft (military service). A biography may contain very detailed description that account for series of events that make up a particular subject’s life, which includes personal experience that may be presented in a story. Unlike the resume that you would normally write to apply for jobs, only listed out the impersonal facts.

So how does a biography comply with science communication? Well let’s take an example of Albert Einstein, if it wasn’t for the people that had been writing story about him or biography I should say, no one will know this genius man in today’s generation because he lived back in the 1800s. This goes the same to Nash, I never know such person exist before reading this chapter of the book, though he is still alive today. I believed neither of us except for his family and people around him would know this particular chapter of his life happened if it wasn’t reading from this book. This chapter describes the following event of how he was protected by many people from being drafted. Who had been protecting him and what those people had been doing in order to save Nash from the draft. Details of such events are needed in writing biography.

Everyone’s story is worth telling however a lot of biographies are written on well-known people. Why? It might be the contributions that they have made or some other interesting facts that happened in their life that worth telling. However for many famous people, they only became famous after their deaths and only by then their work are being recognized.

Perhaps you might need to start writing your own autobiography or someone else biography simply for leaving a record of life in the history of humankind. Who knows, probably you might get famous one day when you achieve something that the world recognized and your story would be disclose by the future generation. Only time will reveal this.

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5 Comments

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  1. tim16 / May 19 2011 5:19 am

    Hi Winnie,

    After reading this chapter I wished I had this biography as my blog topic, as I was a fan of the movie ‘a beautiful mind’ and found this piece just as intriguing. You provide a good, concise description of a biography and summarise the content of this chapter well in your introductory paragraph. However, I am unsure what you are trying to convey with the comparison to a resume.
    Your reference to Albert Einstein is a good example of a legendary scientist who would have

    inspired numerous biographies. Like you mentioned, they would shed valuable information regarding his life and more importantly, his thought process. The actual work he accomplished is published in various other forms of media, though it is a biography that contains unique information about how he dealt with setbacks, or planned his way toward success.

    You discuss the importance of biographies but only touch on the elements that are essential for writing an excellent biography. If I were to write a biography I would want to include, as a minimum:
    •The date and place of birth and death
    •Family information
    •Major lifetime accomplishments
    •Major events in the person’s life
    •Any significant problems they had to overcome and how they went about doing so
    •The effect or lasting impact they had on society
    •If relevant, their historical significance

    These alone, however, do not make a great biography. As you pointed out, I think the person the biography is based on must have done something amazing, unusual or contributed significantly to society; otherwise it simply won’t be an interesting read.
    Thanks
    Tim

  2. alyssaw1 / May 19 2011 12:33 pm

    Hi Winnie,

    I agree with Tim’s comment above, especially in reference to Einstein. Somethings that should also be considered when writing a biography are fact selection, and style. Of course this is dependant on who the biography is aimed at. A biography written for the general public, for example, would have a more casual tone than one aimed at a scientific community. Say for example that Nash’s biography was rewritten with mathematicians as a target audience. Much more jargon and details of his mathematical accomplishments would be included, creating a more scientific piece, whereas the general public may be more interested in his family relations and schizophrenia.
    Before reading the article I was rather confused by your title; I must admit I thought for a second that you had accidentally published your draft version! However providing the reader has read the chapter this should not be a problem.
    I really enjoyed how you ended this post, great idea, it certainly makes the reader think.
    Lastly, there are a few issues with grammar specifically word order and tense that need to be ironed out to perfect this blog post, such as “what is a biography” (what a biography is) and ” I never know such person exist” ( i never knew such a person existed). I hope this is helpful for the future 🙂

    Cheers,

    Alyssa

  3. winnieoctavia / May 19 2011 3:32 pm

    Hi Tim and Alyssa,

    Thanks for the great comments. I made the comparison to resume because resume is about the facts of what that person has been doing whilst biography is also written on someone facts however it is in a story. Indeed only people that have done something amazing that will attract more reader to read their biography, that is why i stated out the point ” lot of biographies are written on well-known people”. However you might not know where you will end up one day… what if you are going to get famous as hollywood movie star for example.. By then i am sure many people would be very interested to read your biography although your life might be quite boring to begin with.

    Cheers,
    Winnie

  4. kizi817 / May 20 2011 8:22 am

    Hi Winnie,
    After I read your blog and the other two comments, I agree with your point.
    For most people I do not think “The date and place of birth and death” is interesting.
    What is “biography” and which kind of ways can bring interest and value information?
    To my mind, I think biography describes the main character’s life story, according to various written, oral memories, investigation and other related materials. Then, writer needs selective arrangement, description and explanation to write a biography. But biography is different from the usual history. It needs to have emotion; it through the author’s choice, editing, group access, devoted love and hate emotions; it needs to be performance art practices in order to achieve expressive purposes.
    Based on these reasons, I do not agree with Tim’s understanding. A variety of different biographies usually based on different positions, it is not means ” the biography is based on must have done something amazing”.

    Cheers,
    Yuchao Yang

  5. Rachel / May 26 2011 4:55 am

    Hi Winnie,

    Nice write up and I do agree with Alyssa in saying that a biography needs a target audience. As there was a little jargon in the biography about Nash, in regards to the military, it was still an easy enough read. One thing I do believe would have been more beneficial to this biography would be if it did have more emotive language. More on his feelings and allowing the reader to really picture the people in Nash’s life. Maybe establish the people more as characters, so you could engage with the biography as a story more easily.
    Also agree with the idea that people would not know about the lives of other people if it wasnt for a biography, either in print on on-line form of media.

    Cheers,

    Rachel

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