Why do mathematicians are always portrayed as weird people? Are they more weird than others? Do they always have to be weird to become good mathematicians? Am I a real mathematician? Am I weird? Hopefully the answer to the two last questions is "no". But it can make another question - if I am not a real mathematician is it because I am not weird, or I am not weird because I never was a real mathematician?
I finished reading a book I wrote some in my previous blog.
There used to be a difference in people who lived in St. Petersburg and in Moscow, it may still exists. I used to know people from both cities and they all said the same - if they lived in St.Petersburg, they could not possibly imagine to live in Moscow and vice versa.
There were always long lines but I had my tricks how to get there early and avoid crowds. Everybody was going to see two Leonardo da Vinci paintings, so I knew to get my group there first so we can really enjoy them. I do wish that Gessen's book would have at least some pictures of St.Petersburg.
You do not have to be Jewish to have this experience, I had it also back in Soviet Union and I had in US also. Most of the time it has been not because you are not smart enough but because you are not from the "right family" or it may be said - you are not the right class - too low class, we, aristocrats, are the different bread...
In a book it is some about this kinda of attitude also - when dirty fights are happening among mathematicians to become Academy of Sciences members. There is a mention about two very famous Russian mathematicians - Kolmogorov and Alexandrov - who went against their teacher Luzin in 1936 when Alexandrov desired the status of the member of the Academy of Sciences and perhaps that also helped them to cover up the fact of being a homosexual couple (it was considered criminal in Soviet Union).
It is also mentioned in a book that all this time he had a caring mother around, so he even did not need to know about everyday chores.
I think that Grigory Perelman is a wonderful example of amazing results when talented person had dedicated teachers to support him. He was given all possibilities to think just about the mathematics and live the life the way he wanted. As a result he solved a great problem. He reached the top. And that is when he finally faced the reality of life, how things are going in this world, that you cannot be in isolation forever. And he realizes that the world is not the way he thinks it should be or wants it to be, so he turns back to the world.
I know couple other people who have become brilliant mathematicians because they also had devoted mothers who took care of them and they had great teachers. They are all men.
I have met successful women in mathematics who are referred as an examples that it is possible to have family and children and to be a mathematician with lots of publications necessary for academic advancement. It turned out - they also had mothers taking care of their kids (almost all the time) and doing all housework...
And when somebody like Perelman has reached his goal - he solved the problem nobody else could solve for 100 years - he is faced with all the realities at once and he is so disappointed that he announces that he quits mathematics.
The mathematical problem is solved but there is still a question left -
if this is a price to pay for it - was it worth it? To realize that all this time spent in search of the solution of one problem no matter how great the problem was, was only to see how alone you are? Of course, million dollars cannot pay for that.