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Christian Goldbach, a minor mathematician whose conjecture, made in a 1742 letter to the vastly more important Leonhard Euler, has made him immortal.
Thursday, December 13, 2012

A U. Maine professor ruined his life trying to solve Goldbach's Conjecture

A 90-year-old University of Maine professor, who went to Maine fromm the Institute for Advanced Study to get peace and quiet to work on his big idea, thinks he has proved Goldbach's Conjecture. But the work is so very long, so very hard to understand, and so unorthodox that other mathematicians won't even try to check it.

Or so reports this fascinating post in the Braniac blog, from the IDeas section of the Boston Globe, which includes this touching tidbit:

... the immense personal toll this monomaniacal obsession had taken on Pogorzelski, who’d neglected his wife, by then deceased, and was not in contact with his only child. “I really thought I could get it in Maine,” he told the newspaper. “I worked day and night, neglected my family, gambled everything away on the problem. It pains me. I thought my family understood that I was doing it all for them but they did not.”

Goldbach's Conjecture is famous because it's one of those deep, important math questions that are accessible to laymen, like Fermat's Last Theorem but unlike the Rhiemann Zeta Hypothesis. It says every integer greater than two can be expressed as the unique sum of three primes.

Henry Pogorzelski does have a wikipedia entry.