1The Math Genious Who Turned Down a US$1 million Prize
In 2003, Russian mathematician Grigori Perelman solved the seemingly unsolvable Poincaré conjecture, a 100-year-old problem, to prove that any shape without a hole can be formed into a sphere. Considered one of the world's smartest men, Perelman published two proofs of the theorem in 2002 and 2003. It took until 2010 for a team of mathematicians to validate his results. The problem was one of the seven listed on the Cambridge, Massachusetts' Clay Mathematics Institute's Millennium Prize list.
The bounty on such a solution is one million dollars and the Fields Medal, math's equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Not bad at all, right? However, right after being offered the prize he turned down the offer. The genius refused the prize, claiming the knowledge gained to be worth more than the financial reward.
"I'm not interested in money or fame," Perelman stated. "Emptiness is everywhere and it can be calculated, which gives us a great opportunity. I know how to control the universe. So tell me, why should I run for a million?" he told a local newspaper. The 45-year-old genius still resides humbly with his mother and sister in his hometown of St. Petersburg.
2The Lottery Winner Who Refused his US$2.77 million
Who hasn't dreamed of winning the lottery? Not everyone, apparently. A 70 year old German pensioner who won £2 million ($2.77 million dollars) on the lottery refused the cash because he didn't know what to do with it.
According to the pensioner, he was not interested in winning. He simply bought the ticket because his late wife was a passionate player.
After he realized that he was the winner of the lottery's big prize, he went to the German Lottery Association headquarters and told them that he doesn't want the money. Even when lottery officials tried to persuade him to accept this money, he refused because has no living relatives near him (his wife and parents are dead, with no children or other relatives in sight). Finally, following his wish, the lottery association kept the money.
3The Man Who Refused US$4 million for a ROCK
While on a journey through a mountain near Yemen's border, a Saudi man called Saleh Musfer Al Gamdi found a little dark rock which, according to him, is the one mentioned in one verse of the Koran, where Allah sent Ababil birds to throw Sejil stones (pebbles of hell) to destroy an army led by Yemen's warlord Abraha just before the advent of Islam to knock down Kaaba in Makkah, now the Moslems' holiest shrine.
A year later, he was offered $4 million for the rock, which carries drawings of birds and elephants and weighs 131 grams, exactly the same number of words in the Koran verse that mentioned the stone. Experts estimate that the stone dates back nearly 1,442 years. In addition, he found it just aoneday after dreaming of his father and grandfather, yet another reason not to sell it.
4The Inventor Who Refused US$60 million to Keep His Conscience Clean
In 2006, the polymath inventor Jeffrey Van Middlebrook figured out a way to sequester gas from waste combustion that, if brought to an industrial scale, could be worth a fortune.
The Chinese government was deeply interested in Middlebrook's invention because of its potential application in advancing clean coal technology. China is the world's largest consumer of coal and has an enormous amount of pollution resulting from burning it to generate electricity. Around half a million people per year die prematurely due to air pollution-related illnesses in China. Also, the burning of coal contributes significantly to the black smog that chokes China's cities.
Affiliated with a university in China and backed by the Communist Party's deep coffers, they offered him and a business partner a US$60 million budget in research and development funding.
But then, Middlebrook began reading in the news that Chinese military hospitals had harvested the organs from tens of thousands of prisoners of conscience, predominantly practitioners of Falun Gong, a peaceful spiritual discipline. He read about mind-bending torture and the unyielding state-led persecution from Chinese officials.
As Middlebrook started reading that he became morally conflicted. "Here's a foreign government holding money under our noses, and then I start reading about horrific things in China. I thought: ‘I can't do this. I can't take this money. No matter how much my technology means, no matter how much they are going to invest, I cannot take China's money."
5The Rockers Who Wouldn't Shave for US$1 million
Do you remember those Gillette man models in their towels, shaving after taking a shower? Well, this is not the case of a model but of some rock stars. ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons and his bandmate Dusty Hill were once offered one million dollars to shave their beards off, but refused – and they'd do the same if asked again.
“Even adjusted for inflation, this isn't going to fly. The prospect of seeing oneself in the mirror clean-shaven is too close to a Vincent Price film. It's a prospect not to be contemplated – no matter the compensation,” said Gibbons.
6The Actress Who Refused a US$1 million Offer to Pose Nude
Famous and controversial actress Lindsay Lohan claims she was approached by editors at Hugh Hefner's men's magazine to strip for Playboy's 55th anniversary issue last year. This wasn't the first time she has turned down an offer, but this time they offered $1 million to pose nude for the magazine.
Rumor has it that the troubled starlet was offered $700,000 to bare it all back in September 2008, and was then offered $500,000 to do the same this year. When Lohan refused the second offer, it was said that Playboy bumped up their bid to $900,000.
Lohan has already posed semi-nude several times, once for a photo shoot with fashion designer Hedi Slimane earlier this year, and for her “Last Sitting” Marilyn Monroe spread in New York magazine in 2008.
7The Man Who Refused a US$250 million Job
While many people would kill for a minimum wage job, this man refused to continue working for GLG, one of Europe's biggest hedge funds, despite the firm's offer of share options, cash, and other inducements worth a total of US$250 million in order to stay for another five years.
Greg Coffey has been a big name in London's secretive hedge fund business for several years, but it was a single career decision he made last year that gave the 38-year-old man from Sydney an international profile.
Mr. Coffey, whose success has allowed him to amass a property portfolio worth more than $40 million that includes a house in London, two waterfront mansions in Sydney, a chalet in Switzerland and a farm outside London, is someone who apparently can afford to reject a millionaire offer like this.
His confidence, bolstered by the $300 million he had earned the previous year, made Mr. Coffey hopeful to set up his own hedge fund, but eventually he joined a rival hedge fund manager, Moore Capital.
8The Preacher Who Refused Millions From The U.S. Government
This is the case of the popular Christian minister Rick Warren, who declared that any Christian organization must reject government money if they claim to predicate the Gospel.
Rick Warren, preacher from the well known Saddleback Community Church in California, declared that any Christian organization should reject government money if they claim to predicate the Gospel, and assured the press that he himself has refused to accept millions of dollars that would be assigned by Bush and Obama's administration. The money was going to be directed to his worldwide work for the sake of social care performed by the church where he presides.
According to the church minister, the rejection has to do with avoiding to be driven to receive political pressure, and thus risking Jesus' integral message. Besides, in some cases the economic help is conditioned to support government agendas such as abortion and LGBT.