Grigori Perelman is an eminent Russian mathematician who won all-Russian mathematical Olympiad. He is known for making a monumental contribution to geometric topology and Riemannian geometry. He also proved the Thurston’s geometrization conjecture and the soul conjecture. To honor his services to the discipline of mathematics he was awarded several accolades but he turned them down.
Grigori Yakovlevich Perelman was born on 13 June 1966, in Leningrad, Soviet Union to Russian parents of Jewish faith. His mother was studying mathematics but upon his birth she abandoned her goal to raise him. From an early age, Perelman exhibited distinguished inclination toward mathematics. As his mother realized his potential, she enrolled him in a mathematics training program run by Sergei Rukshin. He also went to a specialized school with advanced mathematics program. He excelled in all academic disciplines except in physical co-curricular activities.
He represented the Soviet Union high school team in 1982 International Mathematical Olympiad. Perelman achieved a perfect score and won a gold medal for his stellar performance. For his advanced studies in mathematics Perelman went to the Leningrad State University and was enrolled without entrance exam. He received his doctorate degree in 1990 and afterwards joined Leningrad Department of Steklov Institute of Mathematics for work. Upon strong recommendation of Mikhail Gromov, a notable geometer, Perelman was landed jobs in several American universities as a researcher. His work on Aleksandrov’s spaces earned him the Young Mathematician Prize from the St. Petersburg Mathematical Society. Moreover, he was invited by the Courant Institute in New York University to spend a semester. There he worked on manifolds with lower bounds on Ricci curvature and later accepted a two-year fellowship of Miller Research at the University of California.
Perelman’s reputation as an illustrious mathematician is directly linked to his solving the Poincaré conjecture (1904). French mathematician Henri Poincaré proposed this conjecture. It states that any closed three-dimensional manifold when contracted at one point is a three-sphere topologically. In 1994 he proved the soul conjecture while, he started working on Poincaré conjecture in 2002. The following year he proved the authenticity of Thurston’s geometrization conjecture and this development also proved the Poincaré conjecture.
In 1996, European Congress of Mathematics selected Perelman to offer a prize for his proving soul conjecture which he openly turned down. The Fields Man is one of the prestigious accolades awarded to under 40 mathematicians for their indelible work. Perelman for his geometrical work was awarded one in 2006. However, he declined the award showing his indifference to money and fame. In his own words, “I don’t want to be on display like an animal in a zoo.” The same year proof of the Poincaré conjecture was declared the scientific ‘Breakthrough of the Year’ by Science, a scientific journal.
Additionally, in 2010 he was considered for the Clay Millennium Prize as he fulfilled the criteria by proving Poincaré conjecture. Once again he declined a hefty amount of one million dollars in prize. He claimed that the decision to offer him the prize was unfair as Richard S. Hamilton’s work, the Ricci flow, was as deserving as his Poincaré conjecture. Hamilton actually pioneered the Ricci flow with the purpose of attacking the conjecture. The long list of declined awards and prize also includes another prestigious prize by European Mathematical Society.