Millennium Prize to Perelman

The Clay Mathematics Institute announced today the award of the Millennium Prize to Perelman for the proof of the Poincare Conjecture. The award was made based on the rules set up when the prize was created: a Special Advisory Board (Donaldson, Gabai, Gromov, Tao and Wiles) made a recommendation to the CMI Scientific Advisory Board (Carlson, Donaldson, Margulis, Melrose, Siu and Wiles) that was accepted.

On June 8 and 9 Clay will host a conference to celebrate at the Institut Henri Poincare.

The initial press release says nothing about the question many have been wondering about for years: who will get the million dollars? Does all of it go to Perelman? Did he accept it?

Update: According to alexbellos on Twitter, Carlson says that Perelman has been informed of the award of the prize, but there has been no response yet from him about whether he will accept it.

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38 Responses to Millennium Prize to Perelman

  1. Nigel says:

    Since he declined the Fields Medal in 2006 despite two days of fruitless attempts to make him accept, maybe they’ll take the easy option and mail him the check for the Millennium Prize?

  2. David Rysdam says:

    Why have many been wondering about the million dollars? Are the rules unclear or something?

  3. I am really very happy for him.
    Will be Prof. LOUIS DE BRANGES the next one to receive this “premium” for his demonstration of the Riemann hypothesis?
    I hope so.
    dr. kathrine (Switzerland).

  4. literalman says:

    There’s a question about the $1,000,000 because Perelman refused the Fields previously — see

  5. Peter Woit says:


    There are very specific rules governing the Millennium prize, including a process that begins when a complete proof has been written down and refereed according to the standards of major journal or its equivalent. In this case, Clay helped fund the book written by Morgan-Tian to make sure that this was done. In the de Branges there is no such refereed paper.

  6. What took them so long? Perelman posted his proof 7 years ago, and it was published in a peer-reviewed journal 4 years ago. The Clay rules say only to wait 2 years.

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  8. John Baez says:

    Yay! That’s great news! He deserves it. Whether he wants to take the money or not, that’s up to him…

  9. neo says:

    Recognition of his great accomplishment is all that matters. Whether or not he wants to accept it is up to him.

  10. Chris Oakley says:

    Yay! That’s great news! He deserves it. Whether he wants to take the money or not, that’s up to him…

    It could be that the Clay Mathematics Institute, under pressure to cut costs, is now only allowed to award prizes to those who are not likely to accept them.

  11. Sakura-chan says:

    Hamilton should get some of that too.

  12. Just leave him alone. Why can’t people understand, he feels like accepting these prizes are beneath him. It’s almost sad at this point. Everyone knows he completed Hamilton’s Ricci Flow program. I’m even more stunned that Gromov was on that committee; the one person I thought understood Perelman.

  13. Peter Woit says:

    Ricci’s Pieces,

    The task of the committee Gromov was on was mainly to get experts to go through the proof and make sure that it is a valid proof of the claimed theorem. Checking the proof is important and requires experts like Gromov. I see no rational reason Perelman should object to this activity, quite the opposite. He should be pleased that other mathematicians are working hard to understand his ideas and their implications.

    As for the decision to award him a $1 million prize, the thing may be beneath him or not, but once the prizes associated with problems were set up, when one of the problems is solved, that must be acknowledged. That’s what Clay has now done. If Perelman wants to either ignore them or reject the award, he’s free to do so.

    I’m struck actually by how low-key this announcement was. There appears to have been no effort to get this wide distribution in the media, and the $1 million is not mentioned at all in the press release.

  14. Simplicio says:

    @Ricci’s: I don’t see how they can not at least try and award him the prize. It was set up to go to whomever proved Poincare’s conjecture, and that was Perelman. Its not like the Field’s medal where its more of a judgement call.

    Will be interesting to see if he takes the money though. A million bucks is a lot to turn down, especially since he’s now reportedly unemployed.

  15. Einstein once described Dirac as living on the knife edge between genius and insanity. Guys like Perelman and Groethendieck seem a bit over that edge. I don’t think that their motivations can be interpreted in conventional terms. It would seem sad, at least to me, if Perelman, like Groethendieck, has lost interest in mathematics

  16. When I mentioned Gromov, I meant much more in the sense of politically and not mathematically. I know a lot of Gromov’s work was used in Perelman’s work and naturally you would ask someone like Gromov to check the work or parts of the work. However, in Gessen’s recent book on Perelman, it was very apparent that Gromov supported Perelman’s stance on the Fields Medal situation. On the other hand, I guess Clay has their hands tied; they have no choice but to award it to Perelman.

  17. amateur says:

    I think there is a difference between recognition and fame. If Perelman has stated he wanted recognition, I think that is a very different thing than being famous.

    I would argue that Perelman’s refusal to accept the Fields medal and apparent refusal to accept the Clay prize has nothing to do with those things being “beneath him”. I think he his trying to make a statement about purity of math, and any exchange of money effectively cheapens math and makes a mathematician look like a prostitute. Although that might not be the precise way to phrase it, I can see it as a principled position and I suspect it is one that is closely aligned to Perelman’s.

  18. professional says:

    and any exchange of money effectively cheapens math and makes a mathematician look like a prostitute.

    More than a principled position it seems to me juvenile, if not downright childish. Nobody thinks of Euler as a prostitute, even though he worked for Catherine the Great, and the Clay institute is certainly not a brothel.

    I very much doubt you’re accurately representing Perelman’s ideas.

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  20. amateur says:

    Perhaps your right, I humbly submit my apology if I caused offense.

  21. Soarer says:

    Uncertain of its validity, yet some russian media’s indicating that perelman has declined the award.

  22. professional says:

    Come on amateur, we’re just discussing ideas, no need to apologize. Prof. Perelman certainly has a very uncommon, and maybe extreme, view of the mathematical community which probably very few people, aside from him, fully understands. I just don’t think your rather simple interpretation of his behavior could possibly reflect his way of thinking.

  23. martibal says:

    I guess there is not so much money in Russia for science right now. Would it be so “impure” to take the money to help other young (or less young) mathematician in his country ?

  24. amateur says:

    I have read several articles and a few books, and they all seem to say basically the same thing. He really just wanted his work checked, he was upset that some competing mathematicians tried to claim his work as their own, and he feels isolated from the broader mathematical community. I think if my suggestion that accepting money might make him feel like a prostitute is childish, it would seem to fall in line with some of his behavior already. However, just because one might perceive such behavior as childish, I would argue that because of his apparent situation of being exceptional at math, he probably has never fully developed strong personal skills, simply because there are probably fewer than 10 people in the world he can have discussions with about the type of math he’s interested in (probably less if you consider the language barrier). I think under those situations, a person would behave very childishly, particularly when you consider that a few of the people he can converse with behaved equally childishly and tried to take claim for his work.

  25. professional says:

    From what I’ve read, I think one of the things Perelman is reacting to is his perception that sometimes positions, prices, and credit are given for political reasons, whereas often talented and deserving people don’t get the credit (and money…) they deserve because they are not well connected politically.

    If so, his attitude of withdrawing from mathematics could not be more wrong. He’s just leaving a vacuum that will be filled by others, perhaps less deserving.

    I fully agree with you that he should have accepted the price and use the money to help young people who lack support to develop their careers as mathematicians. Even more, if he had accepted the Fields medal he could have used the prestige and political influence that comes with it to try and change some of the things he thinks are wrong with the community.

  26. andreask says: far as I understood it should be well-known that Perelman was far from being that stereotyped lack-of-personal-skills-mathematician, it seems quite clear he never visited any new-age-manager-seminars on ‘development’ of ‘personal skills and potential’, but his love for literature, including Dostojewskij and Tolstoj is one of his few personal convictions that made it through the media and seem to have been, in fact, directly initiated by Perelman himself. Possibly those are some of the few hints Perelman gave to mathematical community, knowing that the ones that he aimed at would understand and the ones he did not aim at, would refuse to understand. One could call this childish, but in Dostojewskij’s perception of reality (compare ‘Notes from the underground’, ‘The Idiot’ etc.) characters similar to that one being ‘performed’ by Perelman were the great and unrecognized heroes of the Russian society during the 19th century.

  27. Common Sense says:

    One could call this childish, but in Dostojewskij’s perception of reality (compare ‘Notes from the underground’, ‘The Idiot’ etc.) characters similar to that one being

    I would like to suggest to Prof. Perelman a much more effective course of action, though definitely less literary.

    Accept the prize, and donate the money to the children of Haiti, or whatever needy place you like. There’s no lack of starving children in the world that could use a million dollars worth of food.

    Then, with a few thousands of dollars of the prize money, publish and ad in a large newspaper saying: “Dr. so-and-so, president of whatever mathematical institution, is a corrupt asshole”.

    Mind you, that message would reach very far and would be heard loud and clear by millions. After that, he can go back to his favorite cave with the pleasing satisfaction of a job well done.

  28. Peter Woit says:

    I’d be very interested to hear from anyone who actually knows something about Perelman and his thinking on the prize issue. But most of the comments here seem to be pure speculation, informative perhaps about the commenter, but not about Perelman. Enough.

  29. Joseph says:

    Being a mathematician myself, I doubt in his situatin I would have refused the prize, acting on moral high ground, as Common Sense suggests, or otherwise – but he gets all my respect for mocking the lusts of this world.

  30. Eugene Stefanovich says:

    Take a look at two video clips on

    In the first one a reporter talks with Perelman on the phone and asks if he decided to take the Clay prize. Perelman’s response is that he has not decided yet. If he is going to accept the prize the Clay Institute will be the first to know. The clip is dated March 23, 2010.

    The second clip shows Perelman walking to a neighborhood grocery store. A (different) reporter is stalking him trying to ask questions. And Perelman is doing his best to avoid the annoying encounter.

  31. Richard says:

    Good grief, that obnoxious “news crew” behaving more like paparazzi probably does nothing but drive him further underground. He should have wasted some of the food he bought on the camera’s lens.

  32. D. says:

    The site linked directly above is a fascinating microcosm of another culture. Fully half the women commenting are proposing to bear his children. I am fairly certain that recent US Fields medalists did not inspire this response in the general public.

  33. a says:

    “Even more, if he had accepted the Fields medal he could have used the prestige and political influence that comes with it to try and change some of the things he thinks are wrong with the community.”

    I don’t think you could be more wrong about this. Perelman gets little if any prestige or political influence from the Fields medal, especially in the mathematical community, unless it’s the kind of influence that he doesn’t want in the first place. On the contrary, it’s he who would give prestige to the medal.

  34. amateur says:

    I think the media should just leave him alone.

  35. student1729 says:

    If Diogenes was around today walking with his lamp in Saint Petersburg looking for an authentic, honest human being he would actually find one.

  36. Chris says:

    Come on, what’s a million dollars these days? Peanuts. It wouldn’t buy you an apartment in London (or just a tiny apartment, perhaps). And I hear that Moscow is the most expensive city in the world, which is probably where Grigori Perelman would like to buy an apartment. Big deal. They should increase the prize to a 100 million USD.

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