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Mathematician Declines Top Prize

A reclusive Russian named Grigory Perelman has puzzled the world of mathematicians. On Tuesday, Perelman won a coveted Fields Medal, an award given every four years by the International Mathematical Union for exceptional achievement in math.

But Perelman didn't show up to claim the award, and has said he doesn't want it. He told a British newspaper last week, "I do not think anything that I say can be of the slightest public interest."

Perelman is credited with helping solve the Poincare Conjecture -- a famous math problem about the shapes of space that was first posed by Henri Poincare in 1904.

A separate $1-million dollar prize for solving the conjecture is still up in the air. A published proof must stand for two years before being eligible.

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David Kestenbaum is a correspondent for NPR, covering science, energy issues and, most recently, the global economy for NPR's multimedia project Planet Money. David has been a science correspondent for NPR since 1999. He came to journalism the usual way — by getting a Ph.D. in physics first.

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