Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Russian Genius Turns Down Million-Dollar Math Prize

From The Moscow Times:
MADRID -- A reclusive Russian mathematician won the world's highest honor in the field Tuesday for work toward solving one of history's toughest math problems but he refused to accept the award -- a stunning renunciation of accolades from the top minds in his field.

Grigory Perelman, a 40-year-old native of St. Petersburg, was praised for work in the field known as topology, which studies shapes, and for a breakthrough that might help scientists figure out nothing less than the shape of the universe.

But besides shunning the medal, academic colleagues say he also seems uninterested in a separate, $1 million prize he might be due over his feat: proving a theorem about the nature of multidimensional space that has stumped very smart people for 100 years.

The academic award, called a Fields Medal, was announced at the International Congress of Mathematicians, an event held every four years, this time in Madrid from Aug. 22-30. It is the highest honor in the field of math. Three other mathematicians -- another Russian, a Frenchman and an Australian -- also won Fields honors this year.

They received their awards from Spanish King Juan Carlos to loud applause from delegates to the conference. But Perelman was not present. "I regret that Dr. Perelman has declined to accept the medal," said John Ball, president of the International Mathematical Union, which is holding the convention.