Mathematician who refused $1 million prize finally explains why

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012

Although most of us would be very happy if someone handed us a million dollars, others prefer fame to fortune. Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman is one of the latter. In 2010, he refused the $1 million Clay Millennium prize he earned for solving one of mathematics' most elusive theorems.

Oh wait. He also refused the Fields Medal in 2006, proving that he doesn't care for glory either.

According to Techland, in two proofs written in 2002 and 2003, Perelman solved the Poincare conjecture, which "prove[s] that any shape without a hole can be formed into a sphere." The Poincare conjecture is one of the seven Millennium Prize Problems, each with a million-dollar reward for a solution, each with a history of baffling the greatest minds in math.

Perelman only recently explained why. The Moscow Times reported:

His research is too interesting due to its vast implications—both practical and philosophical—to spend time on other matters, Perelman said in an interview published Thursday in Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Applications for his studies range from space industry and nanotechnologies to social sciences and fundamental questions about the nature of the universe, Perelman said.
"I know how to control the universe. Tell me, why would I need to chase a million [dollars]?" he said.

It's a pity that he doesn't recognize he can control the universe just fine in a better home or a nicer pair of shoes.

Perelman isn't the only guy who thinks money is a waste of time: famed comic-book writer Alan Moore has refused every penny of royalties made from movie adaptations of his comic books since his negative experience with a lawsuit over The League of Extraordinary Gentleman.