I had never been on a stakeout, but I knew how it was done. I took a book. I bought a few sandwiches. I flipped on the radio and listened to the traffic reports.
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I had never been on a stakeout, but I knew how it was done. I took a book. I bought a few sandwiches. I flipped on the radio and listened to the traffic reports. That kept me awake as I waited for my target: Grigori Yakovlevich Perelman. I was here to interview him, but I had a problem: Perelman was a recluse — possibly the most famous recluse in the world — and hated talking to people.
For nearly years, the conjecture had confused the sharpest minds in maths, many of whom had claimed its proof, only to have their work discarded upon subsequent scrutiny. The problem had broken spirits, wasted lives. He had shut off contact with most friends and colleagues, stopped cutting his hair and nails and cultivated a wild beard. The truth about lying. Safety in numbers. Why Britain fails the maths test.
University maths 'too difficult' for British students. But, while Russian society has largely passed judgment on Perelman — misanthrope, wacko — I admired him. His will was free, his result pure, and therein lay his glory. However, I was hungry for a share of that glory myself and craved an exclusive interview.
The only way to do this, I knew, was to go to Russia and sit outside his flat until he came out. But he particularly hates journalists. It was spring when I arrived. On TV. A dozen storeys high, made of unadorned concrete panels in the dull Brezhnev style, the structure covered half the block. Perelman mixes with no one, I had been told, refusing even to take the lift unless he is the only one in it. And with whom would he mix?
The people I saw were roughly drawn; the elderly leaning on spindly wooden canes, the teenagers wasting the day. But, ragged as these surroundings were, Perelman exceeded them.
As a younger man, he had been handsome, with soft, dark features, but recent pictures, taken with a camera phone on a train and then transmitted across the web, projected a different image. He looked disturbed as he gazed out from under thick eyebrows, chewing a nail. How would he react when I approached him? My target did not appear on that first day, and I told myself to have the patience of Perelman.
On day two, a few guys with fresh cuts on their faces straggled by, looking for something to do. I stayed where I was. Brought up in St Petersburg by his mother, Lyubov, a talented mathematician herself, and his father, Yakov, an engineer, Perelman was sent to a school specialising in advanced maths and physics. At 16, he won a gold medal with a perfect score at the International Mathematical Olympiad. At this stage in his life, according to his closest friend, Sergei Rukshin, Perelman interacted with other students.
Besides maths, he enjoyed ping-pong and trips to the opera. He possessed a heterosexual orientation, Rukshin told me, but not the fire to pursue this inclination to its logical end.
Owing to the fact that the problem had such a history of false proofs, Perelman told no one about his work. He showed up infrequently and worked on his proof in secret for the next seven years. By day three, there was still no sign. I was actually relieved, since I had no idea what to say to him. Transfixed in the tedium of my stakeout, I watched a tramp move along the street. It was Perelman, no question. The beard, the hair, the expression of uncertainty as he stumbled into the sun, his mother, Lyubov, by his side.
He shuffled toward the bins by the door, looking as if he might rummage through them. They turned down the lane, heading toward the courtyard behind their building. I locked up the car. The courtyard was large, with double-storey buildings positioned haphazardly within it. Trailing at distance, I saw the pair moving across a field.
I decided to approach them head-on, rather than sneak up from behind, taking all measures to avoid agitating Perelman.
And even though I knew he spoke English, I thought it best to speak Russian with him, to put him further at ease. But the first part of my plan proved impossible. I would have to approach them from behind after all.
Then I was at his side, and there was no more time to think. He appraised me from the corner of one eye. But I have come from America to speak with you.
Perelman spoke with a high-toned, bird-like voice. And he knew what to say. Perelman looked at the sky, letting out a pained sigh. They looked me up and down, as though what I said had confused them. I was in. She wore thick glasses, and her cheery face puffed out beneath the beret. I nodded toward the street. By all signs that I could interpret, he was eager to speak with me. We kept on. Lyubov spoke up. Perelman put his arm around her. Considering all that I had learnt about Perelman, this display of considerate behaviour amazed me.
And it emboldened me. No one had got this close to him in years. Maybe he was ready to talk. You speak like someone who was born in Russia. Either way, he was showing me that he could deal with people. Pressing my momentum, I asked him a few easy questions.
We made our way toward the archway that led to his door. I tried another serious question. He was becoming agitated. We had walked for 20 minutes, and what had I figured out? I had got a feeling for the man. But I had not solved the riddle. There was time for one final question.
I put it to him in English, the single philosophical question that I hoped he would consider. Perelman stepped closer to me. But when I finished his face went slack, again. He shrugged, squinted into the spring sun. I watched them approach their entrance and retreat into the darkness of the vestibule. Perelman was in. He had got some air. Terms and Conditions. Style Book. Weather Forecast. Accessibility links Skip to article Skip to navigation.
Thursday 04 June Where did he go? Grigori Perelman as a student. By Brett Forrest. Related Articles.
Grigori Yakovlevich Perelman
View six larger pictures. Biography Grigori Yakovlevich Perelman 's parents are Yakov Perelman, an electrical engineer, and Lubov Lvovna, who was a teacher of mathematics at a technical college. They were Jewish, which would present their son with some problems in a country where it was feared that those of Jewish descent had divided loyalty. Grigori Yakovlevich, their first child, is often known by the name Grisha. As a young child Grisha was taught to play the violin both by his mother and by a private tutor. His father also had a major influence in developing his son's problem solving skills.
Y ou are the world's cleverest man. You have solved one of maths' most intractable problems. The answer, if you are the reclusive Russian genius Grigory Perelman, is b. It took the world's leading mathematicians several years to verify that Perelman had definitively solved the problem in a paper published in Perelman, however, doesn't want the cash. This latest snub follows his refusal in to collect the maths equivalent of an Oscar, the Fields Medal. Perelman is currently jobless and lives with his mother and sister in a small flat in St Petersburg.
Grigori Perelman , born , U. In Perelman had left academia and apparently had abandoned mathematics. He was the first mathematician ever to decline the Fields Medal. Perelman earned a doctorate from St.
Grigory Perelman, the maths genius who said no to $1m
In the s, partly in collaboration with Yuri Burago and Mikhail Gromov , he made influential contributions to the study of Alexandrov spaces. In , he proved the soul conjecture in Riemannian geometry, which had been an open problem for the previous 20 years. In and , he developed new techniques in the analysis of Ricci flow , and provided a detailed sketch of a proof of Thurston's geometrization conjecture , the full details of which were filled in by various authors over the following several years. In August , Perelman was offered the Fields Medal  for "his contributions to geometry and his revolutionary insights into the analytical and geometric structure of the Ricci flow ", but he declined the award, stating: "I'm not interested in money or fame; I don't want to be on display like an animal in a zoo. Hamilton , the mathematician who pioneered the Ricci flow partly with the aim of attacking the conjecture. Grigori's mathematical talent became apparent at the age of ten, and his mother enrolled him in Sergei Rukshin's after-school mathematics training program. His mathematical education continued at the Leningrad Secondary School , a specialized school with advanced mathematics and physics programs.