Need we add that mathematicians themselves are not infallible? Henri Poincare

Perfect rigor : a genius and the mathematical breakthrough of the century Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009 Masha Gessen Poincare conjecture, Perelman, Grigori, 1966- Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xi, 242 p. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

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 1998, 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.

Rejecting the Fields Medal he said, “I’m not interested in money or fame, I don’t want to be on display like an animal in a zoo.” Perelman was awarded the prize and he declined it, saying that he considers his contribution to proving the Poincaré conjecture to be no greater than that of Richard Hamilton, who introduced the theory of Ricci flow with the aim of attacking the geometrization conjecture. Fascinated by his story, 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 mathematician raised in Russia — she set out to uncover the nature of Perelman’s genius. What she found was a mind of unrivalled computational power, one that enabled Perelman to pursue mathematical concepts to their logical, if not always rational, ends.

But she also discovered that this very strength has turned out to be his undoing: such a mind is unable to cope with the messy reality of human affairs. When the jealousies, rivalries, and passions of life intruded on his Platonic ideal, Perelman began to withdraw — first from the world of mathematics and then, increasingly, from the world in general. In telling his story, Masha Gessen has constructed a gripping and tragic tale that sheds rare light on the unique burden of genius all the more surprising since she  wrote about a person she never met – and that is the true meaning of conjecture!


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