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Terence Chi-Shen Tao FRS (Chinese: 陶哲軒, simplified Chinese: 陶哲轩) (born July 17, 1975, Adelaide, South Australia) is an Australian mathematician working primarily on harmonic analysis, partial differential equations, combinatorics, analytic number theory and representation theory. His single most famous result, joint with British mathematician Ben J. Green, is a proof that there exist arbitrarily long arithmetic progressions of prime numbers (the Green–Tao theorem). Tao is currently a professor of mathematics at the University of California, Los Angeles.

In August 2006, he was awarded a Fields Medal,[2] widely considered the top honor a mathematician not over 40 years of age can receive.[3][4] In September 2006, he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society on May 18, 2007. He became a foreign associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences in 2008 and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009. On January 11, 2010, the King Faisal Foundation announced that Tao is the co-winner of the King Faisal International Prize in the field of science for his works in mathematics.[5]

Personal life

Tao was a child prodigy.[6] His father told the press that at the age of two, during a family gathering, Tao attempted to teach a 5-year-old child mathematics and English. According to Smithsonian Online Magazine, Tao taught himself basic arithmetic by the age of two. When asked by his father how he knew numbers and letters, he said he learned them from Sesame Street.[7] Aside from English, Tao speaks Cantonese, but does not write Chinese.

During the time of his PhD at Princeton University, Tao often engaged in discussions on the sci.math Usenet group. He made serious attempts at correcting the ramblings of the Usenet celebrity Archimedes_Plutonium.[8]

When he was 24, he was promoted to full professor at UCLA and remains the youngest person ever appointed to that rank by the institution. Tao's father was born in Shanghai, and Tao's mother is Cantonese by ethnicity[9]. His parents are first generation immigrants from Hong Kong to Australia.[10] His father, Billy Tao (Chinese name Xiangguo Chinese: 陶象國; Cantonese Yale: tòuh jeuhng gwok; Pinyin: Táo Xiàngguó) is a pediatrician, and his mother is a physics and mathematics graduate from the University of Hong Kong, formerly a secondary school teacher of mathematics in Hong Kong.[11]

Tao has two brothers living in Australia, who both represented Australia at the International Mathematical Olympiad.

* Nigel Tao is part of the team at Google Australia that created Google Wave.[12]
* Trevor Tao has a double degree in maths and music and will soon feature in a book on autistic savants.[12]

Tao currently lives with his wife and son in Los Angeles, California.

Child prodigy

Tao exhibited extraordinary mathematical abilities from an early age, attending university level mathematics courses at the age of nine. He is one of only two children (besides Lenhard Ng) in the history of the Johns Hopkins' Study of Exceptional Talent program to have achieved a score of 700 or greater on the SAT math section while just 8 years old (he scored a 760).[13] In 1986, 1987, and 1988, Tao was the youngest participant to date in the International Mathematical Olympiad, first competing at the age of ten, winning a bronze, silver, and gold medal respectively. He won the gold medal when he just turned thirteen and remains the youngest gold medallist in the tournament's history. At age 14, Tao attended the Research Science Institute. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees (at the age of 17) from Flinders University under Garth Gaudry. In 1992 he won a Fulbright Scholarship to undertake postgraduate study in the United States. From 1992 to 1996, Tao was a graduate student at Princeton University under the direction of Elias Stein, receiving his Ph.D. at the age of 20.[14] He joined the faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1996.

Research and awards

He received the Salem Prize in 2000, the Bôcher Prize in 2002, and the Clay Research Award in 2003, for his contributions to analysis including work on the Kakeya conjecture and wave maps. In 2005 he received the American Mathematical Society's Levi L. Conant Prize with Allen Knutson, and in 2006 he was awarded the SASTRA Ramanujan Prize.

In 2004, Ben Green and Tao released a preprint proving what is now known as the Green–Tao theorem. This theorem states that there are arbitrarily long arithmetic progressions of prime numbers. The New York Times described it this way:[15][16]
“ In 2004, Dr. Tao, along with Ben Green, a mathematician now at the University of Cambridge in England, solved a problem related to the Twin Prime Conjecture by looking at prime number progressions—series of numbers equally spaced. (For example, 3, 7 and 11 constitute a progression of prime numbers with a spacing of 4; the next number in the sequence, 15, is not prime.) Dr. Tao and Dr. Green proved that it is always possible to find, somewhere in the infinity of integers, a progression of prime numbers of equal spacing and any length. ”

For this and other work, he was awarded the Australian Mathematical Society Medal in 2005.

In 2006, at the 25th International Congress of Mathematicians in Madrid, he became one of the youngest, the first Australian, and the first UCLA faculty member ever to be awarded a Fields Medal. An article by New Scientist[17] writes of his ability:
“ Such is Tao’s reputation that mathematicians now compete to interest him in their problems, and he is becoming a kind of Mr Fix-it for frustrated researchers. “If you're stuck on a problem, then one way out is to interest Terence Tao,” says [Charles] Fefferman [professor of mathematics at Princeton University]. ”

Tao was a finalist to become Australian of the Year in 2007.[18] He is a corresponding member of the Australian Academy of Science, and in 2007 was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society.[19][20]

In April 2008 Tao received the Alan T. Waterman Award, which recognizes an early career scientist for outstanding contributions in their field. In addition to a medal, Waterman awardees also receive a $500,000 grant for advanced research.[21]

In December 2008 he was named The Lars Onsager lecturer[22] of 2008, for “his combination of mathematical depth, width and volume in a manner unprecedented in contemporary mathematics”. He was presented the Onsager Medal, and held his Lars Onsager lecture entitled “Structure and randomness in the prime numbers”[23] at NTNU, Norway.

In 2010 he received the King Faisal International Prize jointly with Enrico Bombieri.[24] Also in 2010 he was awarded the Nemmers Prize in Mathematics.[25]


* Solving Mathematical Problems: A Personal Perspective,[26] Oxford University Press, 2006

See also

* Tao's inequality


1. ^ a b "Vitae and Bibliography for Terence Tao". Oct 12, 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-21.
2. ^ Fields Medal -- Terence Tao 29 August 2006
3. ^ "2006 Fields Medals awarded" (PDF). Notices of the American Mathematical Society (American Mathematical Society) 53 (9): 1037–1044. October 2006.
4. ^ "Reclusive Russian turns down math world's highest honour". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). 2006-08-22. Retrieved 2006-08-26.
5. ^
6. ^ Clements, M. A. (Ken) (1984). "Terence Tao". Educational Studies in Mathematics 15 (3): 213–238. doi:10.1007/BF00312075.
7. ^ Apple Daily, Page A4, 24 August 2006.
8. ^ Terry Tao Usenet post, 9 January 1994,
9. ^ "天才数学家陶哲轩 (Mathematical Genius Terence Tao)" (in (Chinese)). 2007-April-02 17:23. Retrieved May 16, 2010.
10. ^ Wen Wei Po, Page A4, 24 August 2006.
11. ^ Oriental Daily, Page A29, 24 August 2006.
12. ^ a b Nigel makes Waves: Google's bid to overthrow email, Asher Moses, Sydney Morning Herald, 2009-10-02
13. ^ Radical acceleration in Australia: Terence Tao Gross, M. Retrieved 31 August 2006.
14. ^ It's prime time as numbers man Tao tops his Field Stephen Cauchi, 23 August 2006. Retrieved 31 August 2006.
15. ^ Kenneth Chang (13 March 2007). "Journeys to the Distant Fields of Prime". New York Times.
16. ^ "Corrections: For the Record". New York Times. 13 March 2007.
17. ^, Prestigious Fields Medals for mathematics awarded, 22 August 2006.
18. ^ National Australia Day Committee, 2007 Australian of the Year Finalists. Retrieved 2007-01-27.
19. ^ Annual report, Australian Academy of Science, 2008.
20. ^ Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society, retrieved 2010-06-09.
21. ^ National Science Foundation, Alan T. Waterman Award. Retrieved 2008-04-18.
22. ^
23. ^ NTNU's Onsager Lecture, by Terence Tao at YouTube
24. ^ King Faisal Foundation, - retrieved 2010-01-11.
25. ^
26. ^ Solving Mathematical Problems: A Personal Perspective, Oxford University Press 2006

External links

* Terence Tao's home page
* Tao's research blog
* Terence Tao at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
* Terence Tao's results at the International Mathematical Olympiad


Mathematics Encyclopedia

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