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On July 1, 2010 the media broadcasted that the Russian mathematician Grigori Perelman had finally refused the million dollar prize.

Do you need the here? On one hand, it is an exact person. On the other, it is a person's name, which doesn't require an article, and I know that I also don't need it when say "I read Perelman's proof," despite the fact that it is an exact proof.

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The article goes with mathematician here. Without it you have a false title. – snailplane Mar 29 '14 at 20:39
@snailplane That's a cool link, thanks for letting me learn something new! :) – Alicja Z Mar 29 '14 at 20:59
up vote 4 down vote accepted

In this particular case, I would consider including "the" as more appropriate for both an encyclopedic entry as well as a non-fiction book describing the history, while dropping "the" could be defended as appropriate for a news article (especially in the intro or news brief).

As per @snailplane's comment, this is an example of "false title". The word "false" in this case may itself be something of a misnomer since it reflects a bias that this usage is "bad" or "improper" in some absolute sense.

More accurately, dropping the article "the" is simply a method of describing someone in terms of a pseudo-title, which may be good or bad, proper or improper, clear or ambiguous, and all depending on the usage and the intent of the writer. This is an issue of style, and the question of whether or not it needs the article "the" depends on style, consistency, clarity, and intended audience.

General, educational prescriptive texts on English grammar indicate the use of "the" as more formally correct in this case. However, news communications - especially headlines and news in brief summaries - will often drop articles and other non-essential elements; however, care must still be used to insure the sentence or sentence fragment remains unambiguous.

Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_title       http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalese

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Good question. I don't think you need the definite article because you are already mentioning the person's name i.e. a proper noun that serves as the subjective noun here. Had it been without the proper noun, it would have taken the definite article. Compare...

On July 1, 2010 the media broadcasted that Russian mathematician Grigori Perelman had finally refused the million dollar prize.

On July 1, 2010 the media broadcasted that the Russian mathematician had finally refused the million dollar prize (-here, we'd assume that that Russian mathematician is already described/introduced earlier.)

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But the being present doesn't make the sentence incorrect, it is simply redundant? – Graduate Mar 29 '14 at 19:07
@Graduate I never said it's incorrect. It's generally not required. I had probably (not sure) read this somewhere in Swan's Book about subject nouns. – Maulik V Mar 29 '14 at 19:18

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