Terence Tao became the first mathematics professor in UCLA history to be awarded the prestigious Fields Medal, often described as the “Nobel Prize in mathematics.
Stephanie Wood meets the maths genius: Australian Terence Tao.
|Problem solver: Mathematics maestro Terry Tao. Photo: Hugh Hamilton|
One of the world's greatest minds is playing with a toy pony. He presses a plastic stethoscope into the soft toy's body, feigns a pony cough. "Is he sick or is he well?" he asks. "You don't know? Want a second opinion?"
Terence Tao - Terry, as he's mostly known - is sitting on a leather sofa in his Los Angeles living room, thin, bare-footed and bespectacled, talking to his three-year-old daughter, Madeleine, just home from a birthday party. It's hard to be intimidated by a man playing with a toy pony.
Yet this is a man with an intimidatingly rare and precious mind. Academics studied it with astonishment throughout his Adelaide childhood as he charged through IQ tests and International Mathematical Olympiads with unprecedented results. "Off the scale," says Miraca Gross, an authority on the education of gifted children, describing his IQ. "Terry hears mathematics and sees and smells mathematics in a way we don't."
When he was nine, Tao commenced part-time studies in mathematics at Flinders University. By the time he was 16, he'd finished his science degree. He got his masters when he was 17 and his PhD at Princeton University at 20.
"He is arguably the world's best mathematician," says Joseph Rudnick, the dean of Physical Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where Tao, now 39, has been a mathematics professor since he was 24. "Other mathematicians speak of him in tones of awe." His talents, says Rudnick, are "other-worldly".
Tao has pages of awards, fellowships, prizes and medals to his name - most notably, the Fields Medal, the maths world's equivalent of the Nobel Prize, which he received in 2006 when he was 31 "for his contributions to partial differential equations, combinatorics, harmonic analysis and additive number theory". Around about then, people started to describe him as "the Mozart of math".
Terence Tao ( From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Terence Tao - UCLA
Source: The Age