Mathematician Who Moonlighted as a Night Watchman Solved 37-Year Old Math Problem

A math theorem called the Road Coloring Problem, first conjectured by Benjamin Weiss and Roy Adler in 1970 was finally solved in 2007 ... by Avraham Trakhtman, a mathematician who worked as a night watchman after he immigrated to Israel:

“In math circles, we talk about beautiful results — this is beautiful and it is unexpected. Even in layman’s terms it is completely counterintuitive, but somehow it works,” says Stuart Margolis, a colleague who recruited Mr Trakhtman to Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv. [...]

[Stuart] says the discovery was especially remarkable for two reasons. “Math is usually a younger person’s game, like sports,” he says. “Usually you do your better work in your mid 20s and early 30s. He certainly came up with a good one at age 63.”

Secondly, Trakhtman has an unlikely background.

“The first time I met him he was wearing a night watchman’s uniform.”

Originally from Yekaterinburg, Russia, Trakhtman was already an accomplished mathematician before he came to Israel in 1992, at the age of 48.

But like many immigrants in the wave that followed the breakup of the former Soviet Union, he struggled to find work in the Jewish state and was forced into stints working maintenance and security before landing a teaching position at Bar Ilan in 1995.


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It is nothing like Good Will Hunting. He was an accomplished, professional mathematician with a full career behind him who as the result of his immigration and cultural adjustment had to take a temporary security guard job. I keep seeing this story all over the Internet, titled with some variation of "lowly night watchman proves to be a math genius". Thats not the remarkable part of this story.
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