I would like to have help in producing examples of mathematicians that, in some sense I'll explain below,turned their career into failure. I am mainly interested in examples from XIX and XXth century.
I'd like to hear of mathematicians that:
- started their career in a very promising manner and then turned to pseudosciences, or devoted all their energies to "lost causes".
- lost years and years in trying to prove statements that turned out to be wrong and/or for which there were not suitablly developed techniques.
- lost their life in trying to support theories that turned out to be of little use/ of limited interest/ not well granted.
- developed complete theories that rapidly went "out of fashion" and did never become fashionable again.
- missed by little big opportunities of great results.
- were very famous during their lifetime and are completely forgotten nowadays.
I am of course thinking of reasonably well-known mathematicians, not of an obscure Molvanian guy that got lost in his studies.
I list just one example which falls into some of this categories:
Luigi Fantappié that became quite famous in the 30ies for his theory of analytic functionals. This theory was somewhat halted, since it needed a more abstract approach that was possible only after sheaf theory was developed in the 50ies. He then developed an alternative "final relativity theory" that was completely ignored by physicist (missing the opportunity to anticipate of some years the theory of Lie algebra deformations). He also devoted enormous amount of time to the so-called theory of sintropy which turned out being a bizarre mixture of pseudoscience, theological considerations, doubtful philosophical statements.
No living mathematicians please.