Perfect Rigour: A Genius and Mathematical Breakthrough of the Century (HARDBACK)
UK Publication March 2011
Page Extent 256
A thrilling account of an utterly brilliant and utterly eccentric Russian mathematician which sheds a rare light on the unique burden of genius
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. Perelman will likely be awarded the prize this fall, and he will likely decline it. 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 math whiz 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 (sometimes distant) end.
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 out to uncover the nature of Perelman's genius.
‘Perelman and the world of Soviet maths training make a fascinating, moving tale, and in Perfect Rigor Masha Gessen tells it brilliantly.’ Tom Stoppard, Guardian
‘Gessen provides a thorough account of the circumstances that led to Perelman’s rise in the “vicious, backstabbing little world” of Soviet mathematics and a brilliant reconstruction of the twisted logic that might have led to his mysterious exit. In so doing she has written something rare: an accessible book about an unreachable man.’ New York Times
--------------Masha Gessen is a journalist who has written for Slate, Seed, the New Republic, the New York Times, and other publications, and is the author of two previous books.
See more books by: Masha Gessen
Tags: spring 2011