Thomas Royen found the solution at the age of 67 while brushing his teeth
A retired German man has found the proof to a complex geometry and probability problem that experts have tried to solve for decades, only for his achievement to go largely unnoticed.
Thomas Royen was reportedly brushing his teeth when he struck upon an idea in July 2014.
Then 67 years old, the former statistician for a pharmaceutical company, from Schwalbach am Taunus, a town on the edge of Frankfurt, found the solution to the conjecture, known as the Gaussian correlation inequality (GCI).
But at the time, Mr Royen’s cogent solution had gone largely unheralded and is still slowly permeating the scientific community, Quanta Magazine reports.
The GCI conjecture originates in the 1950s but was more clearly formulated in the 1972. Since then, scores of mathematicians have unsuccessfully tried to solve it.
According to the GCI principle, if two shapes overlap, such as a rectangle and a circle, then the probability of striking one, for example in a game of darts, increases the chances of also striking the other.
Donald Richards, a statistician at Pennsylvania State University told the science magazine he had been working on trying to solve the equations for 30 years without success.
Not a career mathematician, Mr Royen is not one those who have spent most of their life working to explain the conjuncture. His primary aim was to improve statistical formulas for the pharmaceutical industry to make sense of drug trial data.