We did a short summary but wanted to make sure all our readers (email subscribers we are thinking of you) made sure they checked out this excellent profile of Jim Simons. Below is a brief excerpt.
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,” Jim 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.
Down one floor from his office complex is Math for America, a foundation he set up to promote math teaching in public schools. Nearby, on Madison Square Park, is the National Museum of Mathematics, or MoMath, an educational center he helped finance. It opened in 2012 and has had a quarter million visitors.
Jim Simons, 76, laughs a lot. He talks of “the fun” of his many careers, as well as his failings and setbacks. In a recent interview, he recounted a life full of remarkable twists, including the deaths of two adult children, all of which seem to have left him eager to explore what he calls the mysteries of the universe.
On a wall in his office are some of the equations Jim Simons wrote with the geometer Shiing-Shen Chern that define many esoteric aspects of physics. Credit Béatrice de Géa for The New York Times
“I can’t help it,” he said of the science he finances. “It’s very exciting.”
Jeff Cheeger, a mathematician at New York University who studied with him a half century ago at Princeton, described Jim Simons’s career as “mind-boggling.”