November 01, 2006

St. Petersburg's Reclusive Genius



In August, Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman refused the highest honor a mathematician can be given – the Fields Medal, for his solving of the Poincaré conjecture, an immensely difficult problem relating to three-dimensional objects that has vexed scientists for a century. What is more, he has expressed little interest in receiving the $1 million prize likely to be offered by the Clay Math Institute, for solving one of the millennium’s seven most difficult math hypotheses, of which Poincaré is one. Reclusive and eccentric, Perelman has given few interviews. Russian Life talked to his teachers and friends. 

“Grigory is a devoted scientist in the purest sense of this word,” said Serge Rukshin, one of Perelman’s former teachers and scientific supervisors. Rukshin heads St. Petersburg’s Math Center for Gifted Children, which Perelman attended as a boy. “He is not about money or recognition,” Rukshin continued. “He cares only about math.” 

Even the way Perelman, 40, presented his solution to Poincaré was unusual and showed that he had little interest in fame or fortune. Rather than pursue publication in a peer-reviewed journal, beginning  on November 11, 2002, he posted his results on the Internet at arXiv.org, a website where mathematicians from around the world post electronic preprints of their work. The paper was titled, “The Entropy Formula for the Ricci Flow and Its Geometric Applications.” He then emailed an abstract of his paper to a dozen mathematicians in the U.S. In April 2003, Perelman traveled to the U.S. to deliver a series of lectures on his proofs, and in July 2003, he posted two more papers on arXiv.org, rounding out the results of his research. 


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See Also

Perelman's world

Perelman's world

The Wikipedia entry on Grigory Perelman offers interesting background on the mathematical world.

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