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Russian Mathematician Wins $1 Million Brize But Appears to Be Happy with $0

Grigory Perelman

Reclusive Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman said nyet to a $1 million prize for solving the Poincare conjecture because he didn't believe the prize was fair to his colleagues who had contributed to the solution.

AP Photo / International Mathematicians Congress

Who would turn down a $1 million prize for solving a math problem?

Perhaps the smartest man in the world.

Three months ago, a famously impoverished Russian mathematician named Grigori Perelman was awarded the prestigious $1 million Clay Mathematics Institute Millennium Prize for his groundbreaking work--having solved a problem of three-dimensional geometry that had resisted scores of brilliant mathematicians since 1904.

Thursday, the institute announced that Perelman, known equally for his brilliance and his eccentricities, formally and finally turned down the award and the money. He didn't deserve it, he told a Russian news service, because he was following a mathematical path set by another.

The president of the Clay Institute, James Carlson, said that Perelman was a mathematician of "extraordinary power and creativity" and that it was he alone who solved the intractable Poincaré's conjecture. "All mathematicians follow the work of others, but only a handful make breakthroughs of this magnitude," Carlson said.

From The Washington Post
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