Masha Gessen

Perfect Rigour

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In 2006, an eccentric Russian mathematician named Grigori Perelman solved one of the world's greatest intellectual puzzles. The Poincare conjecture is an extremely complex topological problem that had eluded the best minds for over a century. In 2000, the Clay Institute in Boston named it one of seven great unsolved mathematical problems, and promised a million dollars to anyone who could find a solution. Perelman was awarded the prize this year – and declined the money. Journalist Masha Gessen was determined to find out why. Drawing on interviews with Perelman's teachers, classmates, coaches, teammates, and colleagues in Russia and the US – and informed by her own background as a math whiz raised in Russia – she set out to uncover the nature of Perelman's astonishing abilities. In telling his story, Masha Gessen has constructed a gripping and tragic tale that sheds rare light on the unique burden of genius.
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290 printed pages
Original publication
2011

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Quotes

    Julia Makarovahas quoted5 years ago
    ” Kolmogorov believed that a mathematician who aspired to greatness had to be well versed in music, the visual arts, and poetry, and—no less important—he had to be sound of body
    Margarita Minasyanhas quoted4 years ago
    Why, I pleaded, was the king of Spain undeserving of the honor of hanging a medal around Perelman’s neck?
    “Who the hell are kings?” Gromov was really cranked up now. “Kings are the same kind of crap as communists. Why should a king give a mathematician his prize? Who is he? He is nothing. From a mathematician’s point of view, he is nothing.
    Margarita Minasyanhas quoted4 years ago
    So it is perhaps no accident that the founders of the dissident movement in the Soviet Union16 were mathematicians and physicists. The Soviet Union was not a good place for people who took things literally and expected the world to function in predictable, logical, and fair ways.

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