At age five I became interested in mathematics, and, at age 12, I solved this problem: "Two old women started at sunrise and each walked as a constant velocity. One went from A to B and the other from B to A. They met at noon and, continuing with no stop, arrived respectively at B at 4 p.m. and at A at 9 p.m. At what time was sunrise on this day?"
My other early claim to fame is that as a teenager, I worked with Andrey Kolmogorov at Moscow State University, and proved that any continuous function of several variables can be constructed with a finite number of two-variable functions (a partial solution to Hilbert's 13th problem).
I later graduated from Moscow State University and taught there until 1986, then later taught at both Steklov Mathematical Institute and the Russian Academy of Science.
My primary area of research was in the theory of Symplectic Topology, in fact I created the field....but also did research in Dynamical Systems, Differential Equations, Hydrodynamics, Classical and Celestial Mechanics, Geometry, Algebraic Geometry, and Singularity Theory
I was known for my sense of humor, my "lucid" writing style (merging mathematical rigor with visual intuition), and my conversational approach to teaching mathematics.
Amongst other mathematicians, I was known to be an vocal critic of the mid-1900's trend towards high levels of abstraction in mathematics (i.e. the popular wastes produced by the Bourbaki school in France).
I have a unique approach to problem solving: "When a problem resists a solution, I jump on my cross-country skis. After 40 kilometers a solution (or at least an idea for a solution) always comes. under scrutiny, an error is often found. But this is a new difficulty that is overcome in the same way."
Vladimir Arnold (1937 - 2010)