Saturday, July 10, 2010

Grigori Perelman and Intellectual Property

Grigori Perelman, a Russian Mathematician, was awarded one million dollars and turned it down according to the Washington Post. The Post writes: "Three months ago, a famously impoverished Russian mathematician named Grigori Perelman was awarded the prestigious $1 million Clay Mathematics Institute Millennium Prize for his groundbreaking work -- having solved a problem of three-dimensional geometry that had resisted scores of brilliant mathematicians since 1904. ... Thursday, the institute announced that Perelman, known equally for his brilliance and his eccentricities, formally and finally turned down the award and the money. He didn't deserve it, he told a Russian news service, because he was following a mathematical path set by another." (emphasis added).

It wasn't until I started reading reader comments on this article that there was a strong link to the copyright/patent debate. Those in favor of "strong" copyright assert that it is necessary to foster creativity. Obviously that is not true since people were creative before copyright/patent law ever existed. But that is not my point with this post, several readers commented that the motivating force for Grigori Perelman was his love of mathematics. So many of the readers immediately perceived that this creativity was not about the money or otherwise making some form of intellectual property claim.

Furthermore the Post notes that "Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman isn't the first one to turn down a substantial prize for personal reasons. Take look at some other figures who have turned down large sums and rewards to maintain their integrity."

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