Why won't Grigory Perelman accept the prizes -- the Fields medal -- and money -- $1 million to publish his proof -- offered him?
What do you think of someone like this? Do you think he's just so smart that it's pointless to expect him to have ordinary human motivations and thus uninteresting to understand why he's doing this? Do you admire him for this, and if you do, why? It has to have meaning to be admirable, doesn't it? Or do you find it beautifully poignant, like weeding a desert?
UPDATE: The New Yorker has a long piece that concludes:
The prospect of being awarded a Fields Medal had forced him to make a complete break with his profession. “As long as I was not conspicuous, I had a choice,” Perelman explained. “Either to make some ugly thing” — a fuss about the math community’s lack of integrity—“ or, if I didn’t do this kind of thing, to be treated as a pet. Now, when I become a very conspicuous person, I cannot stay a pet and say nothing. That is why I had to quit.” We asked Perelman whether, by refusing the Fields and withdrawing from his profession, he was eliminating any possibility of influencing the discipline. “I am not a politician!” he replied, angrily. Perelman would not say whether his objection to awards extended to the Clay Institute’s million-dollar prize. “I’m not going to decide whether to accept the prize until it is offered,” he said.
Mikhail Gromov, the Russian geometer, said that he understood Perelman’s logic: “To do great work, you have to have a pure mind. You can think only about the mathematics. Everything else is human weakness. Accepting prizes is showing weakness.” Others might view Perelman’s refusal to accept a Fields as arrogant, Gromov said, but his principles are admirable. “The ideal scientist does science and cares about nothing else,” he said. “He wants to live this ideal. Now, I don’t think he really lives on this ideal plane. But he wants to.”