Warm Southern Breeze

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Unemployed Russian Man Wins US$1,000,000 Prize – May Reject It

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I am not a hero of mathematics. I am not successful at all, and I do not want to be observed by everyone. I do not think anything that I say can be of the slightest public interest.” – Dr. Grigori Perelman

Dr. Grigori Perelman, reclusive genius Russian mathematician, resolved the century-old Poincaré Conjecture.

Grigori Perelmen, 43, of St. Petersburg, Russia, may yet be again proving the truth of the words spoken October 1, 1939 by late British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, that Russia “is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

Dr. Perelman stunned the world’s mathematicians by resolving the century-old Poincaré Conjecture, thereby winning the $1,000,000 Millennium Prize associated with its resolution. The Clay Mathematics Institute (CMI) of Cambridge, Massachusetts sponsors that international mathematics prize, which is one of seven Millennium Prize Problems they established in 2000, conceived to record some of the most difficult mathematical problems remaining at the turn of the second millennium, and to elevate and recognize mathematical achievement in the mind of the general public.

Peculiar History

There has been considerable speculation that Grigori “Grisha” Perelman, described as “unconventional,” “reclusive,” and spurns self-promotion, would decline the award.

The unemployed Dr. Perelman, a bachelor with genius-level intelligence, lives with his aging mother on her $75/mo pension, has a history of wining awards, and rejecting them, and their associated prize money.

At age 16 in 1982, obtaining a perfect score, he won the International Mathematical Olympiad’s Gold Medal top prize, held that year in Budapest.

In 1996, he rejected a quadrennial prize awarded by the European Congress of Mathematicians in Budapest.

In 2006, he eschewed Madrid, Spain where he was honored that year with, and rejected the Fields Medal and its $7000 prize, which is the mathematical equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize, and awarded exclusively to young mathematicians.

Outgoing president of the International Mathematical Union, Sir John Ball, of the University of Oxford, said he travelled to St. Petersburg to meet Dr. Perelman in an attempt to understand his rationale for declining the Fields medal. Professor Ball spent ten hours over two days attempting to convince him to accept it, and said Dr. Perelman spoke of personal experiences with the mathematical community during his career which had caused him to remain at a distance. He added that, “However, I am unable to disclose these comments in public. He has a different psychological make up, which makes him see life differently.”

Dr. Perelman spurned reporters of Britain’s The Daily Mail who sought him for an interview, though he spoke through a closed door saying, “I have everything I want.

Later, his more adamant mother emphatically said to a correspondent of the Russian Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper that, “We do not want to talk to anyone, and we are not giving any interviews! Don’t ask us any questions about the award or that money!

Gergei Rukshin, Mr. Perelman’s high school math teacher, has spoken with his former student, and told the Associated Press news service that, “As far as I know, after there was so much media attention… he did not want to be a public person and to look like an animal in a zoo.

CMI President James Carlson telephoned Dr. Perelman to inform him that he had won CMI’s Millenium Prize, shared that, “He said he would let me know at some point. He did not give a sense of timing but I do not expect it will be tomorrow. He is more than extremely brief. He does not say too much.” He concluded that Dr. Perelman indicated he, “would need to think about it.

Academic and Professional Life

In 1966, when Grigori was born in Leningrad (St. Petersburg), the Soviet Union was at the height of their communist political power.

His Jewish parents were an accomplished couple. His mother, Ludmilla, was a talented mathematician, and father Yakov, whom now resides in Israel, was a prominent engineer.

His parents and others noticed Grigori’s talents were evident before age 11.

Sergey Rukshin, director of the elite math school where young Grigori Perelman studied, recollected that at age 14, Grigori devoted himself entirely to math, even putting aside his beloved violin. Indicating the young prodigy was greatly encouraged to excel, he said, “In 1981, he became the best of his age in the Soviet Union. It was very important for him to be number one.

At the time, a strong distrust of Jews was prevalent throughout the former Soviet Union, and young Gregori had to overcome significant anti-Semitic sentiment. Mr. Rukshin said, “It was a horrible time for Jewish people. Grigori is pure Jewish, and I never minded that, but my bosses did. When they found out I had invited him to study at our maths center they reprimanded me for ‘incorrect ethnic politics’.”

When top academics saw Grigori’s Jewish surname in competition lists, they expressed indignation. Managing to overcome the strong social stigma, he earned a PhD at Leningrad University, secured a good position at the Steklov Institute of Mathematics, a top-ranked academic think-tank, and division of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

In the late 80’s to early 90’s, he moved to the United States, where he conducted research and lectured at New York University and State University of New York, Stony Brook, and the University of California, Berkeley.

His American colleagues remember some of his eccentricities, including unusually long fingernails, and the modesty of his lifestyle. They noted that even though he was well paid, his refrigerator contained little more than milk and bread.

Rejecting lucrative offers from Princeton and Stanford, he shocked his colleagues by returning to the poorly-funded Steklov Institute in the summer of 1995 for a salary equivalent under US$200/month.

Uninterested in writing routine academic papers which he considered pedestrian, he turned to focus on solving complex mathematical puzzles, including the Poincaré Conjecture, which baffled mathematicians for more than a century. However, his Russian colleagues lost patience with him and voted him out of the Steklov Institute.

Tamara Yefimova, one of his former math teachers, recalled that, “He did not want any distractions but the scientists at the institute are forced to publish academic papers every two or three years. Grigori did not want to waste his time on this and colleagues voted him out. They voted out the most brilliant mathematician in the world.

In December 2005 Dr. Perelman left amidst a cloud of discontent and appears never to have worked since. Dr. Ildar Ibragimov, Director of the Steklov Institute denies Mr. Perelman was forced out. Though he admits colleagues found him difficult, he claims he left of his own accord.

Dr. Ibragimov said that, “Some of his colleagues thought he was odd; I don’t think it was jealously for his achievements. Grigory demanded a lot of himself but also from people around him. This made him a difficult person to deal with.

The Poincaré Conjecture, a highly complex mathematics puzzle about three dimensional space that academics believe helps understand the way the universe is structured, was one of Dr. Perelman’s interests, though none suspected he was working on solving it. After posting his work in two parts on a mathematics Internet website, interest in him and his work increased significantly. After four years of checking and double-checking his work for even the slightest flaw, teams of academics and mathematicians the world over confirmed he had solved the conundrum.

In mathematics, when conjectures are resolved or answered, they are called theorems. There is a high likelihood that the Poincaré Conjecture may become known as the Poincaré-Perelman Theorem.

As word began to spread among the academic and mathematical community about Dr. Perelman’s feat, he began receiving numerous invitations. He never accepted any of the various prizes, accolades and speaking invitations to prestigious conferences he received, having then turned within himself.

Those whom know Dr. Perelman, said his sister, whom lives in Sweden, sends money monthly, which supplements his mother’s modest pension, from which they both live. Neighbors say his appearance is disheveled, and unkempt, that the balcony to his apartment is in serious disrepair, and that he spends his time during the day playing ping-pong against the wall. His daily routine consists of a punctual 1:30PM walk to the grocery store, where he purchases the same items: eggs, cheese, spaghetti, sour cream, bread and a kilo of oranges.

Mr. Rushkin indicated Dr. Perelman’s foremost interest was in solving the unknown, saying “Believe you me, a beard does not make a man mad or abnormal. The prize was never his purpose. He was interested in work, not in money.

It’s not clear whether or not Dr. Perelman still practices mathematics, and said “I have not decided yet,” whether he would accept the Millennium Prize. When asked if he would talk about himself, he said tersely that, “Nothing needs to be known.

Solved Century-old Math Problem

Jules Henri Poincaré (1854–1912), French mathematician, physicist, populariser of mathematics and physics, authored several books for the lay public.

French mathematician and physicist Henri Poincaré posited the mathematical riddle in 1904, aged 50. He died eight years later, in 1912.

His question is a central one in topology, which is the study of geometrical properties of objects that do not change when they are stretched, distorted or shrunk.

Topologists call Earth’s surface a hollow shell, which is a two-dimensional sphere. If it were encircled with a lasso and pulled tight, it could be brought to a point.

In contrast, if a lasso were passed through a doughnut’s hole, it could not shrunk to a point without cutting the surface.

Since the 1800’s, mathematicians have known that the sphere is the only enclosed two-dimensional space with such property, but they were uncertain about objects with more dimensions.

Poincaré’s Conjecture says that a three dimensional sphere is the only enclosed three dimensional space with no holes. But proof of the conjecture eluded mathematicians for over a century.

Dr. Perelman actually resolved the Poincaré Conjecture in 2002 and 2003, and published two papers describing his resolution via the Internet, rather than in traditional mathematical journals. Mathematicians and scholars then began reviewing his work for accuracy and error. In 2006 CMI determined that he had satisfied the long-standing mathematical problem, and began determining whether the prize should be shared, or his exclusively. Deciding Dr. Perelman alone should receive the prize, though they agreed to defer the award four years.

James Carlson, CMI President, said, “resolution of the Poincaré conjecture by Grigoriy Perelman brings to a close the century-long quest for the solution. It is a major advance in the history of mathematics that will long be remembered.

In recognition of the resolution, a press briefing and public lecture on June 7, 2010 by Etienne Ghys will be held at the Institut Océanographique. And CMI and the Institut Henri Poincaré (IHP) will sponsor a conference celebrating the Poincaré Conjecture’s resolution June 8 & 9 in Paris, which will also be posted on www.claymath.org.

-*- UPDATE: 05 July 2010 -*-

Dr. Grigory Perelman has officially rejected the Clay Mathematics Institute’s Millennium Prize.


Notice of Award

Award of the Millennium Prize to Grigoriy Perelman For Resolution of the Poincaré Conjecture
Paris, June 8, 2010

Research Conference Poster

Clay Research Conference 2010, Paris

The Institut Henri Poincaré (IHP)

2 Responses to “Unemployed Russian Man Wins US$1,000,000 Prize – May Reject It”

  1. necmettin said

    Grigori Perelmeni anlamak için aşagıdki deyim kelimeleri ögrenmeniz gerekir. Grigori Perelmen.:Poincare varsayımını çözen matematikçi . Dünyanın en zor matematik problemlerinden birini çözen 44 yaşındaki Rus matematikçi Dr. Grigoriy Perelman’ın bu başarısı nedeniyle kendisine verilen bir milyon dolarlık para ödülünü almayacağı bildirildi.Deha. Rus.st. petersburg lu. Düşünür. Realist. Uygulamacı.Adam. Henri poincaré :1904’de fransız matematikçi. Poincaré önermesi:Henri poincaré tarafından orta


    • Warm Southern Breeze said

      bu yüzden çok senin yorum için teşekkür ederiz! Dr Grigori Perelman milyon dolar ödül Clay Matematik Enstitüsü’nün Poincare konjonktür çözmek için sunduğu reddetme kararı aldı.

      Thank you so very much for your commentary! Dr. Grigori Perelman has decided to decline the million dollar prize offered by the Clay Mathematics Institute for resolving the Poincare Conjecture.


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