We cared more of substance than fluff. The fields doesn’t matter, recognition doesn’t matter. I don’t like sounding like a Randite but it is very true. We give value to something we must choose the right things to value.
from the new yorker here
Ball wanted to keep his visit a secret—the names of Fields Medal recipients are announced officially at the awards ceremony—and the conference center where he met with Perelman was deserted. For ten hours over two days, he tried to persuade Perelman to agree to accept the prize. Perelman, a slender, balding man with a curly beard, bushy eyebrows, and blue-green eyes, listened politely. He had not spoken English for three years, but he fluently parried Ball’s entreaties, at one point taking Ball on a long walk—one of Perelman’s favorite activities. As he summed up the conversation two weeks later: “He proposed to me three alternatives: accept and come; accept and don’t come, and we will send you the medal later; third, I don’t accept the prize. From the very beginning, I told him I have chosen the third one.” The Fields Medal held no interest for him, Perelman explained. “It was completely irrelevant for me,” he said. “Everybody understood that if the proof is correct then no other recognition is needed.”