The smartest man in the world

His name is Grigori Perelman and he is a 46 year old Russian fellow who lives with his mother in St. Petersburg, Russia. He is a mathematician who solved the Poincare Conjecture, one of the most important and challenging problems in modern math.

The problem, posed in the early 1900’s by Henri Poincaré, in layman’s terms says that the simplest 3 dimensional shape is a sphere. For nearly a century, mathematicians tried to prove it, but their proofs had subtle problems “Singularities” that would cause their proofs to fall apart. (These singularities are like little defects in the shapes.)

Richard Hamilton), another mathemetician came up with a way to model the problem a clear breakthrough in searching for the proof, but couldn’t handle the singularities. Grigori took Hamilton’s program and modified it in such a way that he could surgically remove the singularities and provide consistent reasoning for doing so. This became the framework for the final proof.

Grigori posted three separate articles to the math community outlining the overall solution in 2003. By 2006, his proof was confirmed and he was awarded the Fields Medal, the Nobel Prize of mathematics but Grigori refused it. In 2010 he was awarded $1,000,000 as part of the Millennium Prize which he also turned down and probably gives some insight into why he lives with his mother.

When Grigori was asked why he turned down the awards and prize money he claimed:

“I’m not interested in money or fame, I don’t want to be on display like an animal in a zoo.”


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