A Best Selling Author


Prof. Dietrich Fischer – TRANSCEND Media Service

Dieter Dietrich FischerSylvia Nasar was a brilliant economics student at New York University and one of four assistants of Wassily Leontief, who had won the 1973 Nobel Prize in Economic Science for his invention of input-output analysis.

Leontief asked another assistant to prepare some questions for a final exam in his course. He prepared three questions, two counting 25 percent each, and a harder one counting 50 percent. Sylvia made a little miscalculation, and got the answer to the third question wrong, which meant that she got only a score of 50%, and a poor grade in that course. The exam questions were very unfair, but this one little mistake had the consequence that she dropped out of her Ph.D. program in economics.

She then found a job as economics reporter for the New York Times. One of her assignments was to interview John F. Nash, the mathematician who had won the 1994 Economics Nobel Prize for his contributions to game theory, and write an article about him. She found Nash fascinating, since he was a brilliant mathematician at a young age, then began to suffer from schizophrenia, but was largely able to control his disease through sheer intellectual strength and willpower.

She wrote a book about him, A Beautiful Mind. It became the number one bestseller and was made into a film, which won the Oscar for Best Film in 2001.

Life takes unexpected twists and turns, and sometimes a sad experience may turn out for the best. If Sylvia had not made a mistake on her exam, she might never have achieved such degree of success.


Dietrich Fischer (1941-2015) from Münsingen, Switzerland, got a Licentiate in Mathematics from the University of Bern 1968 and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from New York University 1976. 1986-88 he was a MacArthur Fellow in International Peace and Security at Princeton University. He has taught mathematics, computer science, economics and peace studies at various universities and been a consultant to the United Nations. He was co-founder, with Johan Galtung, of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment in 1993.

Excerpted from Dietrich Fischer’s Stories to Inspire You – TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 5 Dec 2016.

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One Response to “A Best Selling Author”

  1. Satoshi Ashikaga says:

    The above story is really inspirational. Thank you very much for posting it, Antonio! Let me add the following quote to the above story: http://www.searchquotes.com/quotation/Life_rarely_turns_out_exactly_the_way_you_want_it_to%2C_but_you_still_have_an_opportunity_to_make_it_g/474689/

    And thank you, Dietrich, for sharing the above story with us! A warm and sincere, extraordinarily intellectual and wise professor. More than one year has passed since he passed away peacefully.