Masha Gessen

Perfect Rigour

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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 2000, 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. Perelman was awarded the prize this year – and declined the money. 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 math whiz raised in Russia – she set out to uncover the nature of Perelman's astonishing abilities. In telling his story, Masha Gessen has constructed a gripping and tragic tale that sheds rare light on the unique burden of genius.
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290 printed pages
Original publication



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    Julia Makarovahas quoted5 years ago
    ” Kolmogorov believed that a mathematician who aspired to greatness had to be well versed in music, the visual arts, and poetry, and—no less important—he had to be sound of body
    nayabookshas quoted24 days ago
    The joy of feeling my brain rev up, rush toward a solution, reach it, and be affirmed for it felt like love, truth, hope, and justice all handed to me at once.
    Margarita Minasyanhas quoted3 years ago
    “There are several stages of teaching,” he said. “There are the student, apprenticeship stages, like in the medieval guild. Then there are the craftsman, the master—these are the stages of mastery. Then there is the art stage. But there is a stage beyond the art stage. This is the witchcraft stage. A sort of magic. It’s a question of charisma and all sorts of other things.”

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