Terence Tao

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Terence Chi-Shen Tao
Terence Tao in March, 2006 at the Erdos Memorial Conference in Memphis, TN
Terence Tao in March, 2006 at the Erdos Memorial Conference in Memphis, TN
Born July 17, 1975 (1975-07-17) (age 33)
Residence Los Angeles, California
Nationality Australian
Fields Mathematician
Institutions University of California, Los Angeles
Alma mater Princeton University
Flinders University
Doctoral advisor Elias M. Stein
Known for Harmonic analysis
Partial differential equations
Combinatorics
Analytic number theory
Representation theory
Notable awards Fields Medal (2006)

Terence Chi-Shen Tao FRS (Chinese: 陶哲軒) (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 is a proof, in joint work with British mathematician Ben J. Green, 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 the Fields Medal,[1] widely considered the top honor a mathematician can receive.[2][3] Just one month later, in September 2006, he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society on May 18, 2007.

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[edit] Personal life

Tao was a child prodigy.[4] 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. Both of his parents are Cantonese Chinese by ethnicity. His parents are first generation immigrants from Hong Kong to Australia.[5] 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. [6] She was reportedly also an exceptional mathematician.[7]

His father told the press that at the age of two, during a family gathering, Tao taught a 5-year-old child mathematics and English. According to Smithsonian Online Magazine, Tao taught himself 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.[8] Aside from English, Tao speaks Cantonese, but does not write Chinese. He currently lives with his wife and son in Los Angeles, California. He has two brothers.

[edit] 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 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).[9] 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.[10] He joined the faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1996.

[edit] 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:[11][12]

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[13] 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 Fefferman.

Tao was a finalist to become Australian of the Year in 2007.[14]

In 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.[15]

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ IMU Prizes 2006 29 August 2006
  2. ^ "2006 Fields Medals awarded" (October 2006). Notices of the American Mathematical Society 53 (9): 1037–1044. American Mathematical Society. 
  3. ^ "Reclusive Russian turns down math world's highest honour". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) (2006-08-22). Retrieved on 2006-08-26.
  4. ^ Clements, M. A. (Ken) (1984), "Terence Tao", Educational Studies in Mathematics 15(3): 213–238, http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0013-1954(198408)15%3A3%3C213%3ATT%3E2.0.CO%3B2-3 .
  5. ^ Wen Wei Po, Page A4, 24 August 2006.
  6. ^ Oriental Daily, Page A29, 24 August 2006.
  7. ^ "Beautiful minds". The Australian (August 11, 2007). Retrieved on 2008-09-03.
  8. ^ Apple Daily, Page A4, 24 August 2006.
  9. ^ Radical acceleration in Australia: Terence Tao Gross, M. Retrieved 31 August 2006
  10. ^ It's prime time as numbers man Tao tops his Field Stephen Cauchi, 23 August 2006. Retrieved 31 August 2006.
  11. ^ Kenneth Chang (13 March 2007). "Journeys to the Distant Fields of Prime", New York Times. 
  12. ^ "Corrections: For the Record", New York Times (13 March 2007). 
  13. ^ NewScientist.com, Prestigious Fields Medals for mathematics awarded, 22 August 2006.
  14. ^ National Australia Day Committee, 2007 Australian of the Year Finalists, retrieved 2007-01-27.
  15. ^ National Science Foundation, Alan T. Waterman Award, retrieved 2008-04-18.

[edit] References

  • 2006 Terence Tao: Solving Mathematical Problems Oxford University Press.

[edit] External links

Persondata
NAME Tao, Terence Chi-Shen
ALTERNATIVE NAMES
SHORT DESCRIPTION Australian mathematician
DATE OF BIRTH 1975-7-17
PLACE OF BIRTH
DATE OF DEATH
PLACE OF DEATH