Intrinsically Motivated Math Genius Perelman Ignores $1m Prize

A Russian math genius, and arguably the smartest man on earth, who in 2006 declined to collect the mathematical world’s equivalent of a Nobel prize [more here], has done it again. After solving a problem which could not be solved over the past 1,000 years, yesterday afternoon Grigory Perelman “did not appear in Paris to collect his $1 million prize for solving” the Poincaré conjecture [source].

Below you may find a very interesting video by Russia Today on Grigory Perelman. It was shot prior to yesterday’s news of him declining the $1m Clay Mathematics Institute prize:

Everyone is now wondering why in the world is he declining awards and money?

Besides obviously being a very sensitive person (with the feeling of being “alienated from the mathematical community”), there may very well be other reasons for his puzzling behavior.

On the one hand, what may be of tremendous prestige for you and me, doesn’t have to feel that honorable for a genius of Perelman’s caliber. On the other hand, it is apparent that he didn’t do any of his work for the prizes or the money, and this is the part that I personally find to be most fascinating. I believe that Grigory Perelman makes an exemplary case for the whole subject of intrinsic motivation that I often blog about. He has reached the highest pinnacle of his profession, but not for the money or honors… Wow… We definitely have a lot to learn from the world’s math genius of the century.

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