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    Re: Dava Sobel
    From: Alexandre Eremenko
    Date: 2006 Apr 30, 11:10 -0400

    On Sun, 30 Apr 2006, Frank Reed wrote:
    > I agree with that. And  it's worth remembering that Tobias Mayer offered a
    > complete solution for the  longitude problem including a reflecting circle. He
    > was after the prize. The  3000 pound reward delivered to his widow after
    > Mayer's untimely death was  something like ten times the astronomer royal's annual
    > salary. Big  money.
    And Euler, whose discoveries made all this possible,
    made it clear that the prize was not his motivation.
    (He was awarded 300 pounds without having ever applied)
    Newton, Cleairaut and Euler studied the problem of the Moon
    motion because it was interesting and important.
    They solved the problem. After that, developing the tables
    became possible. And there was no doubt they could be computer if needed.
    Even from the Sobel's account of Harrison it is clear that he started
    to work on perfectioning the clocks BEFORE he learned about the prize.
    He just wanted to make perfect clocks. I believe that THIS is the
    main motivation of most great inventors and discoverers.
    (But of course, these people need some encouragement,
    and support to make their living while they invent:-)
    By the way,
    I read that many other powers (Spain? France) offered similar prizes
    Is the story of those prizes written anywhere?
    P.S. In 2000, one private non-profit organization extablished
    prizes for 6 "most famous" unsolved mathematical problems.
    $1,000,000 each. (Ferma't "last theorem", which is better known to
    general public, was solved before, so it was not one of these 6 problems).
    Since then, one of these 6 problems was solved.
    (By a Peterburg mathematician, whose name is Grisha Perelman).
    He never claimed the prize, and never agreed to give an interview
    to the press.
    Director of his institute in Peterburg was questioned recently
    by a journalist, why Perelman does not claim the prize.
    His reply was: "If Perelman were interested in making money,
    he'd choose some other speciality instead of mathematics".

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