I read this in the New York Times:
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.
The president of the Clay Institute, James Carlson, said that Perelman was a mathematician of "extraordinary power and creativity" and that it was he alone who solved the intractable Poincaré's conjecture. "All mathematicians follow the work of others, but only a handful make breakthroughs of this magnitude," Carlson said.
I'm awed by this man's integrity, in part because I would be hard put to refuse $1 million.
What do you think? Foolish or wise?
And yet, if more people behaved this way in disdaining money ... what a wonderful world it would be. Or would it? Does it expose as a lie that the only incentive for people to achieve is material? Or is this guy to be dismissed as an eccentric?