Perelman Turns Down Millennium Prize

The Clay Mathematics Institute today announced that Perelman has turned down the one million dollar Millennium prize:

On June 8-9 CMI held a conference in Paris to celebrate the resolution of the Poincaré conjecture by Grigoriy Perelman. Dr. Perelman has subsequently informed us that he has decided not to accept the one million dollar prize. In the fall of 2010, CMI will make an announcement of how the prize money will be used to benefit mathematics.

There are various media stories appearing about this, based on an AP report, with a bit more detail:

Jim Carlson, institute president, said Perelman’s decision was not a complete surprise, since he had declined some previous math prizes.

Carlson said Perelman had told him by telephone last week of his decision and gave no reason. But the Interfax news agency quoted Perelman as saying he believed the prize was unfair. Perelman told Interfax he considered his contribution to solving the Poincare conjecture no greater than that of Columbia University mathematician Richard Hamilton.

“To put it short, the main reason is my disagreement with the organized mathematical community,” Perelman, 43, told Interfax. “I don’t like their decisions, I consider them unjust.”

Carlson said institute officials will meet this fall to decide what to do with the prize money. “We have some ideas in mind,” he said. “We want to consider that carefully and make the best use possible of the money for the benefit of mathematics.”

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27 Responses to Perelman Turns Down Millennium Prize

  1. Simplicio says:

    And somewhere, Hamilton is wondering why Perelman doesn’t just take the money and give him half a million bucks.

  2. Sakura-chan says:

    They should distribute it to the remaining 6 problems.

  3. gotta love the eccentricity of so many prodigy mathematicians…

  4. This Perelman is really a very strange man.
    I can write only this because it is the first time that a man
    (a genius in mathematics but anyway always a man)is so “crazy”
    to refuse one million US-Dollars.
    I am really completely fascinated by this man.
    Good luck Dr.Perelman!!!
    Dr.Kathrine M. (Switzerland).

  5. David Santo Pietro says:

    My respect for Perelman is increasing exponentially. He has his principles and he sticks to them regardless. Seriously, how many people these days could turn down a million dollars on principle. Not only that, but he does so in a classy and non confrontational way. When given the opportunity to publicly rub the prize in the noses of the establishment mathematical community, Perelman chooses to rightly give credit to Hamilton in his brief statement. This even after he has had to endure mathematicians claiming credit for his work. When people talk about Perelman they sometimes do so in a condescending way, as if he was “crazy”. From everything I’ve seen, Perelman has the clearest state of mind of anyone in this whole saga.

  6. Deane says:

    For me the greatest tragedy is not Perelman turning down the Millennium Prize but the apparent prospect of Perelman refusing to do any more mathematics, both because he seemed to love it so much and because he has and presumably would continue to contribute so much to the field. I am still hoping that Perelman is just toying with us, and in fact he is still pursuing his passion in the subject.

  7. Daniella says:

    This bitter, wierd little man named Perelman continues to manipulate the media and the good general publics sentiment by whoring out his persona. The man is clearly so desperate for fame, notoriety and being remembered after his own death that little else matters to him.

    Instead of graciously receiving the monies from this award and doing good deeds with it – such as charitable donations, helping his own family or himself he has selfishly chosen to spit in the face of the establishment once agin.

    Principled? Sure – it’s just a pity that his “principles” are geared towards ensuring his own fame at the cost of everyone else. When I studied with him at University he was not well liked by anyone and to be frank this is exactly why he was universally shunned. This media attention is further fuelling his lust for fame and power unfortuantely, just as he’d hoped.

  8. csrster says:

    Simplicio – There is a precedent. That’s what Banting did with his Nobel Prize money for the discovery of insulin, sharing it with his assistant Charles Best. History seems concur with Banting’s view that Best was equally deserving of the prize.

  9. chris says:

    i guess the most logicl recipient of the money should now be the institute he worked for. they sure could use that money.

  10. Sam I Am says:

    That a man turns down a prize that seems to him exorbitant and inappropriate should be respected, and one with curiosity should try to understand his motivations.

    Perelman is right (provided he really said what the newspapers have apparently quoted him as saying) that Hamilton contributed as much as he to the resolution of the Geometrization Conjecture to which Perelman’s work lead – Hamilton laid out the program of using Ricci flow, and proved fundamental results showing the viability of the approach, and even identified the obstacles which later Perelman showed how to overcome.

    Perelman is right that such prizes are unfair and unjust. For every mathematician who receives such a prize there are several more who do work of similar depth who receive nothing. The sociological effects of such prizes are not always positive for the mathematical community, even if they are largely positive for the recipients (they can be negative for those who do not receive, but know they could have, who sink into bitterness). Vershik wrote something along these lines in a Notices of the AMS.

    The notion that Perelman should accept the prize and give it to charity, and that by not so doing he is doing something wrong, is ludicrous, based on a precious and oppressive moralizing. He has not asked for the prize, he has not wanted the prize – it is not his to decide what to do with what is not his – if one thinks that such money would be better given to a charity than to a mathematician – then one’s quarrel is with the Clay Institute, not with Perelman.

  11. Zilog says:

    Daniella, your statement is completely unfair. He’s not desperate for fame – he IS famous already. And it’s his ownr right to refuse what he thinks doesn’t belong to him. That charity-things are just side-effect of money-hungry nature of other people, and it’s good that Perelman doesn’t obey them. Narrow-minded enough (your post).

  12. Mitch Miller says:

    I have no problem with him turning down anything, but I wonder why he decided to put the proof on the Arxiv in the first place. It seemed like he had problems with the math community before he got the attention based on this proof.

  13. killbill says:

    Being weird is cool in math and physics. Erdos is the paradigmatic example, but we all know people like him among our colleauges, who like to be eccentric for the sake of eccentricity. Perelman is entirely entitled to do whatever he wants with the award, but it is silly for his admirers to insist that he does not care about fame etc. You don’t get that good without having incredible ambition. He is certainly more famous than most other Field’s medalists because of his antics.

    Case in point: My girlfriend, who is a veterinarian and couldn’t care less about math, told me today after reading the news about this “crazy genius” mathematician who doesn’t want a million dollars.

    Ultimately, this entire thread is silly, because the guy is of course a genius. But it is fun to psycho-analyse him anyway.

  14. Eric Habegger says:

    I think there might be an added element that brings a reasonableness to the mystery that is Perelman. I think it makes sense because it also fits in with his mathematical talent. I absolutely agree with his ethics but the essence of the divergence from most of us in giving up 1 million dollars is that almost all of us would weigh the two elements, our morals vs our enjoyment of the luxuries 1 million could bring, and come down on the side of the money.

    I wouldn’t presume to read his mind but I think when you have such a rich an inner intellectual world as he does one’s outer environment isn’t quite as important as it might be to most of us. At least it makes me feel better to think about him that way. I tend to think some others bitter conclusions about Perelman reflects more on their subconscious knowledge of their dependence on the outer world for their contentment.

  15. David Santo Pietro says:

    Daniella, are you saying that Perelman devised a plan to get famous and remembered after his death that included dropping out of the mainstream mathematical community, moving in with his mother into an apartment in Russia, stopping all contact with the outside world, working on a problem no one could solve for a century, then after he solves it not talking to anyone about it or accepting awards for it? If this was truly all part of a grand scheme Perelman devised to get remembered after his death, he is an even greater genius than we are giving him credit for.

    You seem to dislike him personally, and maybe it is warranted (professional mathematicians aren’t necessarily the most personable people in the world), but I don’t see how you can say that someone who has almost no contact with the outside world is a “media whore”.

  16. Daniella,
    in this world there are people that ,for a million Us dollars, can kill
    theirs mothers …and,fortunately,there are also (few) people who can refuse 1 million Us dollars!!!
    The world is so nice , so beatiful and so interessant because there are so many different people who think differently.
    I think simply that you have to respect Perelman (and his decisions) even if you don`t like him.
    Dr.kathrine M.

  17. Rana says:

    Actually, this refusal makes some sort of sense. Hamilton was the one who laid out the program, and as astounding as Perelman’s solution was, Hamilton should have been awarded the Millennium as well. I wonder why the Clay institute didn’t include him.

  18. Alejandro Rivero says:

    At least now I understand why my own solution was not acceptable. I suggested to allow Perelman to propose a new problem to be managed by Clay institution. But if he does not consider that the mechanism of prices is fair nor good to promote maths, then of course he would not like to propose any.

  19. Lee Brown Jr. says:

    I say give the money to his mom. She’s probably earned it.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Perelman has won my heart by giving credit to Hamilton. That’s the standard of ethics that every respectable scientist must have.

  21. Pierre N. says:

    Chapeau bas to Perelman! In a very different way, this is as impressive as his proof. He just earned the Field prize of intellectual honesty as only he can judge how much he owes Hamilton.

  22. altf says:

    I agree with rana. Hamilton has made a great contribution to solve this problem (and also generally to mathematics) by his introduction of Ricci flow. For me, Perelman is on finishing touch (although it is the most difficult part at times), but Hamilton is the real founder.

  23. nbutsomebody says:

    A really off topic discussion. Have you seen this
    http://scienceblogs.com/principles/2010/06/the_physics_of_the_imbecile.php

    it seems Kaku is going along with Deepak Chopra in a new age hype.

  24. John Baez says:

    I think we should force Perelman to take the money.

  25. Coin says:

    I’m not sure how Perelman could communicate “just leave me alone” any more clearly than he already has.

  26. JG says:

    Perelman was widely regarded as the best geometer of the last century, even before his proof of geometrization – see his incredible proof of the soul conjecture, for example.

  27. Will Farnaby says:

    Perelman is not “an eccentric”: he presents Asperger’s syndrome – see also Glenn Gould, for example – and, like Gould, he’s made the world a better place in his own particular way.

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