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Stunning intellectual integrity

I’m intrigued by the Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman, who has refused a $1 million prize because he feels that American mathematician Richard Hamilton made significant contributions leading to the solution of the Poincaré conjecture.  That’s fine, and I do admire his intellectual integrity, but I’m still baffled.  If he’s so smart, then why didn’t he simply offer to split the prize?

Still, it does show something I’ve long believed (I even taught a course about it).  We as a society want to reward individual genius, but there really isn’t any such thing… it’s collective, collaborative, built on the shoulders of others, etc.  Perelman’s refusal acknowledges this, and reminds us that he could not have done it alone.

But dang, what’s wrong with just taking $500,000 and sending Hamilton the rest?  And I wonder if Hamilton is also wishing that Perelman had come up with that solution?


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