can't they stop clucking, and just push the money
through his letter-box (if he has one) ?
But then there'd be the immediate problem
of gangster or government attack..."
(the following is adapted from a piece in The Daily Telegraph,
extraordinary life has been one of adversity and extremes. He
has suffered anti-Semitism as well as miscomprehension and betrayal
from less talented colleagues.
with the world around him, he effectively withdrew from society
about five years ago, taking a monk-like vow of silence. Eventually,
he stopped answering e-mails. It was not always thus.
as he is known to his friends, was born in 1966 in what was then
known as Leningrad at a time when the Soviet Union was at the
peak of its powers. His mother, Ludmila, was a talented mathematician
in her own right, and his father Yakov, who now lives in Israel,
was a prominent engineer. Both suffered racial discrimination.
young Grisha's talents were noticed before he had reached the
age of 11. He was enrolled at an élite school specialising
in maths, was pushed hard to excel, and as a school child in the
1980s won two nationwide maths competitions.
1981, he became the best of his age-group in the Soviet Union,"
recalled Sergey Rukshin, the director of the élite maths
school where he studied. Rukshin remembers how at the age of 14
Perelman devoted himself wholly to maths - even putting aside
his beloved violin.
was very important for him to be Number One," he said.
distrust of Jews was strong at the time and the boy prodigy had
to swim against a powerful tide of anti-Semitism. "It
was a horrible time for Jewish people," said Mr Rukshin.
is pure Jewish and I never minded that - but my bosses did. When
they found out I had invited him to study at our maths centre
they reprimanded me for incorrect ethnic politics."
academics would express indignation when seeing his overtly Jewish
surname in competition lists. Somehow, Grisha managed to shake
off the perceived stigma and went on to get a PhD at Leningrad
university before securing a good position at a top academic institute.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s he achieved what many penniless
Russian academics dreamed of and moved to the United States to
conduct research at top universities.
in the U.S. remember his fingernails being unusually long, his
eccentricity, and the modesty of his lifestyle. Even though he
was well paid, they say his fridge contained little more than
milk and bread. [Actually black bread and kefir, or fermented
milk, a fairly healthy diet.]
1995, he shocked his peers by returning to the poorly-funded research
institute in his native St Petersburg where he had earlier worked,
turning down lucrative offers in the US in favour of a tiny salary
worth the equivalent of £120 a month.
had been uninterested in churning out routine yet pedestrian academic
papers and determined to focus on solving a complex maths puzzle
known as the Poincaré conjecture, that had baffled mathematicians
for more than a century. But it seems his new colleagues lost
patience with him.
did not want any distractions but the scientists at the institute
are forced to publish academic papers every two or three years,"
recalled Tamara Yefimova, one of his former maths teachers.
did not want to waste his time on this and colleagues voted him
out. They voted out the most brilliant mathematician in the world."
Mr Perelman left under a cloud in December 2005 and appears never
to have worked since. The director of the institute, Dr Ildar
Ibragimov, denies Dr Perelman was forced out. Though he admits
colleagues found him difficult, he claims Dr Perelman left of
his own accord.
of his colleagues thought he was odd [but] I don't think it was
jealousy for his achievements. Grigori demanded a lot of himself
but also from people around him. This made him a difficult person
to deal with."
the time he began to be feted and lavished with prizes and invitations
to speak at top academic conferences, he had turned in on himself.
People who know him say he and his mother live off her modest
pension and money sent monthly by his sister, who lives in Sweden.
His old mentor, Mr Rukshin, says people should respect his choice.
you me, a beard
does not make a man mad or abnormal," he said.
"The prize was never his purpose. He was interested in work,
not in money."
say his trousers are always too short for his legs, and that the
balcony to his flat has been left to rot. Every day they see him
walk to a grocery shop at 1.30 pm where he buys the same things:
eggs, cheese, spaghetti, sour cream, black bread and a kilo of
is not clear whether he still practises mathematics. He is thought
to pass the time by playing ping-pong against the wall of his
Saint Vassily (Basil) of Moscow,
a sixteenth-century "Fool for Christ"
who, like many others, renounced all clothing even in winter.