Grigori Perelman is a Russian mathematician considered to be the smartest man in the world. He deserved this title for solving the Poincare Conjecture, one of the biggest mathematical problems ever. He is known for rejecting a one-million-dollar prize for solving the conjecture, as well as the Fields Medal, the highest honor a mathematician can get. He quit and retreated into isolation in 2005, claiming that he was disappointed in mathematics.

Background

Grigori Perelman was born in 1966 in a city called Leningrad in the Soviet Union. Yakov Perelman, Grigori’s father, was an electrical engineer, while Lubov Lvovna, his mother, was a mathematician and a teacher at a technical college. Perelman was born into a family of Jewish descent and, at the time, Jews didn’t enjoy all the privileges like Russians in the Soviet Union.

Education

Grigori’s parents worked on his education diligently during his early years. His father taught him to play chess, he also learned to play the violin, and they both encouraged his logical and mathematical skills. Grisha, as his parents called him, started taking part in mathematical contests in his district. His remarkable talent was more than obvious. His mother found out of a math club that was run by Sergei Rushkin, who was a student at Leningrad University at the time. The meetings of the club were organized twice a week and Rushkin was praised for his great ways of nurturing the talent of the club’s members.

Perelman was socially awkward and chubby but Rushkin quickly noticed his incredible potential. He soon became his favorite pupil. Over the summer of 1980, Rushkin taught Perelman English so he could enter the Special Mathematics and Physics School in Leningrad. Perelman managed to learn what would normally take four years of schooling in just a couple of weeks.

Rukshin made sure that a number of mathematical geniuses he personally chose were put in the same class. The class was led by Valery Ryzhik, a great mathematician but a teacher who couldn’t handle such brilliance located in one place. During the summer of 1981, Perelman spent some time in the camp that was led by Rushkin. He accepted going because of Rushkin and this was the first time that he had ever been away from his mother for the night.

When he found out he was among the potential members of the Soviet Mathematical Olympiad team in 1982, Perelman had to go through two selection sessions. His performance was above expectations, even at the second session in Odessa where the children were given harder problems than the ones that expected them at the Olympiad itself. Perelman also demonstrated his brilliance in the 1982 International Mathematical Olympiad held in Budapest. Not only he won the gold medal, he also achieved a perfect score and earned himself a special prize.

The success he made as a member of the Mathematical Olympiad team got him an automatic entry to Leningrad State University. He enrolled it in 1982 and became Rushkin’s assistant and a mathematics tutor at summer camps. However, Perelman gave his students a hard time setting the bar very high and Rushkin had to ask him not to assist anymore.

On the other hand, he was an excellent student who graduated in 1987. By then he had already written and published numerous papers. A respected mathematician and physicist Aleksandr Danilovic Aleksandrov, who was already working at the Steklov Mathematics Institute, had written an official plea asking that Perelman is admitted to undertake graduate work. When the plea was accepted, it was agreed that Aleksandrov would be Perelman’s advisor but it was actually Yuri Burago, another renowned Russian mathematician. Perelman received an equivalent to a Ph.D. degree in 1890, when he successfully defended his thesis.

Career

When Perelman graduated from the Leningrad State University, his advisor Burago used his acquaintanceship with Mikhael Gromov, a professor and a member of the Institute des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques in Paris. He sent him a plea to send an amazing student to spend a couple of months working with him. Gromov sent the invitation and Perelman spent some time in Paris in 1990. During this time he had written his first being paper concerning Aleksandrov spaces, with the help of Gromov and Burago.

After returning to Russia to work at the Steklov Institute of Mathematics, he was awarded the Young Mathematician Prize that was given by the Mathematical Society of St. Petersburg, which was the only prize that he accepted. Perelman also received an invitation to give a lecture at the 1991 Geometry Festival in North Carolina. He accepted the invitation and gave lectures on the topic of Aleksandrov spaces, which gathered a great attention considering that the paper he wrote was due to be published in 1992. Perelman spent his next year of life in New York, the autumn semester of 1992 he was at the Courant Institute and in the spring semester of 1993 he was at the State University of New York. Both spells were financed by a fellowship.

Another fellowship was offered to Perelman to spend the next two years (1993-1995) at the University of California, Berkeley. He had accepted and managed to write some significant papers during this time, including “Elements of Morse theory on Aleksandrov spaces” and “Manifolds of positive Ricci curvature with almost maximal volume”. The greatest was to come in 1994, when he published “Proof of the soul conjecture of Cheeger and Gromoll”, answering a twenty-year-old question asked by these mathematicians. This led to the invitation for the 1994 International Congress of Mathematicians which was held in Zurich, where Perelman gave the lecture on the topic.

During the time he spent in America, he attended lectures held by Richard Hamilton, a fellow mathematician who was trying to solve Poincare Conjecture by studying an equation he named the Ricci flow. When his last fellowship expired, Perelman decided to return to Russia despite being offered professorships by Princeton and Stanford, and even the Tel Aviv University in Israel. Instead, he decided to continue working at the Steklov Mathematics Institute in his hometown, which now changed its name to St. Petersburg.

However, he didn’t stop to think about the problem Hamilton faced and finally managed to find a way around it. He wrote to Hamilton but in 1996 received no reply. It was only then that Perelman decided to continue working on the problem of Poincare Conjecture by himself. The same year he refused to accept the award of the European Mathematical Society.

When he published his paper “The Entropy Formula for the Ricci Flow and its Geometric Applications” online in 2002, the word was amazed. Perelman might not have solved the Poincare Conjecture but he has done everything that was needed to solve it. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the State University of New York were quick to invite Perelman to give lectures on the topic. He spent another month in America in April 2002 during which he was again offered professorships at various prestigious universities. He refused all offers, starting to be annoyed by the pressure put on him.

When he returned to Russia, he published his final installment of the work “Finite extinction time for the solutions to the Ricci flow on certain three-manifolds”. Not only Perelman had solved the Poincare Conjecture but he had also found a solution to the Thurston Geometrization Conjecture. He was promoted to Senior Researcher at the Steklov Institute, the post he kept until December 2005 when he suddenly resigned. He claimed that he wanted to try something else as he was disappointed in mathematics and mathematicians.

In 2006, he was awarded the Fields Medal, the highest honor a mathematician could get. The award was supposed to be awarded to Perelman at the 2006 International congress of Mathematicians in Zurich but not only he refused to accept the award, making him the first ever mathematician to do that, he also rejected the invitation to participate in the Congress.

Perelman actually wanted to avoid the spotlight of the media but his plan backfired. He only attracted additional media attention when he refused to receive the first ever Clay Millennium Prize to be given. The Prize was intended for solving one of the seven greatest mathematical problems in the world and was in the amount of one million dollars.

It is believed that Perelman still lives with his mother in St. Petersburg, although some sources claim that he got a job in Sweden in 2014. It is not known if he actually stopped practicing mathematics but different sources claim that he is working on solving new problems that will amaze the world.

(Perelman was the only one that managed to solve the Poinc...)

2002

Religion

Although he was Jewish in the Soviet Union, Perelman never experienced any real problems due to his religion. Today, he is a Jew in Russia, and he himself claims that he never had any trouble because of it and is treated completely the same as everyone.

Politics

Perelman was never interested in politics and no data can be found that connects him to it in any way.

Views

Perelman is considered by many to be the smartest man in the world. Not only he possess great intelligence but he also has great moral values. This is why he sometimes had problems with fellow mathematicians during his career and this is what led him to quit his career in 2005.

He never cared for his financial well-being, although he stated that he earned enough during his time in America to support himself for the rest of his life in Russia. Here we need to take into account that he always lived frugally, often wearing the same clothes for days (he was known for his brown jacket). During his time in America he actually by consuming cheese, milk and a black bread that he could find in a Russian store he walked every day to.

In line with his moral principles is the decision not to accept the Clay Millenium prize worth one million dollars. He claimed from beginning that Richard Hamilton, a fellow mathematician, equally deserves the praise for solving the Poincare Conjeture and the money and awards that go with it.

Personality

As every genius, Perelman does have a specific personality. During his childhood he was socially awkward and spend a night away from his mother for the first time when he was 15. He is portrayed as an honest person with strong moral principles, which didn't help him with his popularity although such behavior should be normal.

Physical Characteristics:
Perelman never cared for his appearance. It is clamed that he doesn't cut his fingernails or hair on a regular basis. in all his pictures he is shown with long hair and a big beard. According to sources, he was fine with wearing the same clothes fo days, especially his brown jacket.

Interests

Philosophers & Thinkers

Aleksandr Danilovich Aleksandrov

Other Interests

violin

Music & Bands

opera, classical music

Connections

Perelman never married but he has a younger sister, Elena, who also grew up to be a mathematician.

Perelman received the Young Mathematician PrizePerelman received the Young Mathematician Prize in 1991. The prize was given by the Saint Petersburg's Mathematical Society and was the only one that Perelman accepted.

The Millenium Prize,
United States of America

The Millenium Prize is planned to be given to tThe Millenium Prize is planned to be given to the solver of any of the seven great mathematical problems. The Clay Institute confirmed in 2010 that Perelman had solved one of them but he refused the prize.

EMS Prize

Perelman rejected the prize offered by the EuroPerelman rejected the prize offered by the European Mathematical Society

Fields Medal

Perelman rejected the Fields Medal in 2006, altPerelman rejected the Fields Medal in 2006, although it is the highest honor that a mathematician can get