This is the biography of one of the greatest living mathematicians, Grigory Perelman. The biography proceeds from a paradox: despite the fact that the subject is still alive, he has not been interviewed or spoken to. This peculiarity is not for the want of trying on the part of the biographer, Masha Gessen. It is totally to do with the personality of Perelman who, after he solved one of the toughest mathematical problems, became a recluse, refusing to meet anyone. He even refused the Fields Medal (the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for mathematics) and a prize of $1 million.In 2000, the Clay Mathematics Institute in Boston had announced a prize of a million dollars to anyone who could solve the seven great unsolved problems of mathematics. One of these problems is a classic of mathematical topology and is known as the Poincaré Conjecture. It is named after Henri Poincaré who formulated it in 1904. The Conjecture had been worked on by many famous mathematicians and had been the subject of many false proofs. It was finally solved in 2006 by Perelman.Gessen’s marvellous book on a difficult subject and a difficult person is based on very detailed research. She has spoken to almost everyone who knows or knew Perelman — his classmates, teachers, coaches, teammates and colleagues in Russia and the United States of America. She was aided in her research by her own background. She is herself a mathematical whiz raised in Russia.One great advantage of this book is that it demands no knowledge of maths, but an interest in it

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