RUSSIA: Maths genius may take $1 million prize

Reports that reclusive Russian maths genius Grigory Perelman had refused a $1 million prize for solving the apparently intractable Poincare Theorem may have been premature.

International media had a field day last week when it was reported the 42 year-old mathematician, who lives with his 81 year-old mother in a tiny flat in St Petersburg, had turned down the award from the Clay Mathematics Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Poincare's conjecture - a problem involving the deep structures of three dimensional shapes first posed by French mathematician Henri Poincare more than a century ago - had foxed the brightest minds for decades.

The Clay Institute offered prizes of $1 million for each of seven of the most puzzling problems of mathematics. When Perelman solved the Poincare problem in a paper published in 2002 it took teams of mathematicians several more years to determine that he was right.

When the Institute finally honoured Perelman earlier this month, the eccentric scientist - who quit his job as a researcher at St Petersburg's Steklov Mathematics Institute several years ago and survives on income from private students - initially told journalists he did not want the money.

Britain's The Guardian gleefully reported: "You are the world's cleverest man. You have solved one of maths' most intractable problems. Do you a) accept a $1 million reward, or b) reject the money, barricade yourself inside your flat and refuse to answer the door? The answer, if you are the reclusive Russian genius Grigory Perelman, is b)."

But Perelman - who spurned the maths world's equivalent of an Oscar four years ago when he refused to collect the Fields Medal - may yet have a final twist up his sleeve.

"I've not yet made a decision," Perelman said in a telephone interview reported by Russian media outlets. "When I have, the first who will learn of it will be the Clay Institute. But until then, there is nothing more to say."