Successful Billionaire Mathematician Would Have Lost Math Contests, But Was Good at Slow Pondering

(p. D1) James H. Simons likes to play against type. He is a billionaire star of mathematics and private investment who often wins praise for his financial gifts to scientific research and programs to get children hooked on math.
But in his Manhattan office, high atop a Fifth Avenue building in the Flatiron district, he’s quick to tell of his career failings.
He was forgetful. He was demoted. He found out the hard way that he was terrible at programming computers. “I’d keep forgetting the notation,” Dr. Simons said. “I couldn’t write programs to save my life.”
After that, he was fired.
His message is clearly aimed at young people: If I can do it, so can you.
. . .
(p. D2) “I wasn’t the fastest guy in the world,” Dr. Simons said of his youthful math enthusiasms. “I wouldn’t have done well in an Olympiad or a math contest. But I like to ponder. And pondering things, just sort of thinking about it and thinking about it, turns out to be a pretty good approach.”

For the full story, see:
WILLIAM J. BROAD. “Seeker, Doer, Giver, Ponderer; A Billionaire Mathematician’s Life of Ferocious Curiosity.” The New York Times (Tues., JULY 8, 2014): D3.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date JULY 7, 2014.)

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