As a student at the University of Michigan, I had problems...initially earning A's in honors calculus...but then only mediocre grades (Bs, Cs, and even failed nuclear physics).
Though lucky to continue in their graduate program, I had the same problem focusing... getting a C average until Department Chair Hildebrant threatened to kick me out...and I responded by earning a Ph.D. under Raoul Bott's guidance.
Despite this lackluster start, I shocked the mathematical world one-year later with my topological proof of a sphere eversion (i.e. turning a sphere inside out in 3-D space with possible self-intersections but no creases).
This significant idea was followed by my proof of the Poincaré conjecture for all dimensions greater than or equal to five.
Shifting to research in dynamical systems, I created the now-famous "horseshoe" named after me.
As a professor at the University of California-Berkeley, I was awarded the Fields Medal, the Wolf Prize in mathematics, and the Chauvenet Prize.
Outside of mathematics, I have amassed one of the world's finest private mineral collections.
Stephen Smale (1930 - )