The Moscow Times.com
Daniel Woolls-The Associated Press
"Perelman in an undated photograph MADRID -- A reclusive Russian mathematician won the world's highest honor in the field Tuesday for work toward solving one of history's toughest math problems but he refused to accept the award -- a stunning renunciation of accolades from the top minds in his field.
Grigory Perelman, a 40-year-old native of St. Petersburg, was praised for work in the field known as topology, which studies shapes, and for a breakthrough that might help scientists figure out nothing less than the shape of the universe.
But besides shunning the medal, academic colleagues say he also seems uninterested in a separate, $1 million prize he might be due over his feat: proving a theorem about the nature of multidimensional space that has stumped very smart people for 100 years.
The academic award, called a Fields Medal, was announced at the International Congress of Mathematicians, an event held every four years, this time in Madrid from Aug. 22-30. It is the highest honor in the field of math. Three other mathematicians -- another Russian, a Frenchman and an Australian -- also won Fields honors this year.
They received their awards from Spanish King Juan Carlos to loud applause from delegates to the conference. But Perelman was not present. "I regret that Dr. Perelman has declined to accept the medal," said John Ball, president of the International Mathematical Union, which is holding the convention.
Perelman's work is still under review, but no one has found any serious flaw in it, the union said in a statement. Ball later said he did not interpret Perelman's decision to shun the medal as an insult to the world's top math brains. "I am sure he did not mean it that way. He has his reasons," Ball said, without saying what they might be.
The $1 million prize will be decided in about two years by a private foundation called The Clay Mathematics Institute, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, after other academics have analyzed Perelman's work.
If his proof stands the test of time, Perelman will win all or part of the prize money. In 2000, the institute announced bounties for seven unresolved, historic math problems, including the one Perelman tackled. Two weeks ago, academics began analyzing Perelman's work, which draws heavily from a technique developed by another mathematician, Richard Hamilton of Columbia University.
The institute said it could be conceivable that they share the money. The riddle Perelman tackled is called the Poincare conjecture, which essentially says that in three dimensions you cannot transform a doughnut shape into a sphere without ripping it, although any shape without a hole can be stretched or shrunk into a sphere.
Perelman is believed to live with his mother in St. Petersburg, but recent efforts to contact him proved fruitless."