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What Do the Unabomber and Grigori Perelman Have In Common?

Grigori Perelman is the 40-year-old Russian mathematician who has been credited with resolving the Poincare Conjecture, one of the most important questions in math. But Perelman chose not to attend the International Congress of Mathematicians in Madrid, where he was to be given a Fields Medal by Spanish king Juan Carlos. Perelman has also neglected to pick up the $1 million in prize money offered by the Clay Mathematics Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Alas, Perelman’s absence was not unexpected, as he is a proven recluse.

This brought to mind another recluse who was also a mathematical genius — and who, like Perelman, also spent time at the University of California-Berkeley. Perelman was a visiting scholar there; the other man was an assistant professor there. His name was Ted Kaczynski, a.k.a. the Unabomber.

I have no expectation, and certainly no hope, that Perelman’s reclusion is in any way driven by the same sort of anger that drove Kaczynski’s reclusion. It’s just that in reading about Perelman, I was struck by these (admittedly superficial) similarities.

Speaking of the Unabomber, it was recently reported that his personal possessions are being sold, with the proceeds going toward victims’ restitution. This made me think, for the first time in a while, if I should do something productive with the Unabomber stuff that I happen to possess — most notably, the audio tapes of a lengthy prison interview I conducted with Kaczynski several years ago for an article I wrote about him and his brother, David. Suggestions?