Professor Terence Tao

Professor Terence Tao is a humble achiever who happens to be one of the greatest mathematicians in the world. A child prodigy who grew up in the hills of Adelaide, Prof Tao is regarded as the Mozart of Maths, recognised globally for his natural ability to solve enormously complicated problems across a broad range of mathematical fields. In 1996, at the age of just 20, Prof Tao completed his PhD in Mathematics at Princeton University, and has been a Professor at the University of California Los Angeles ever since. In 2006, he was awarded the Fields Medal – regarded as the Nobel Prize of mathematics – for his contributions to partial differential equations, combinatorics, harmonic analysis and additive number theory. He has been the author or co-author of over 350 research papers and 18 books, and continues to attract top students from all over the world, eager to study with him at UCLA.

Prof Tao’s mathematical abilities emerged at a very young age, with his parents observing his interest in numbers and ability to count and read by the age of two. At age nine, he was already attending university-level mathematics courses, and at the age of ten he was the youngest person ever to compete at the International Mathematical Olympiad, where he won bronze, silver, and then gold over three consecutive years. Prof Tao remains the youngest winner of each of the three medals in the Olympiad’s history, having won the gold medal at the age of 13 in 1988.

Bucking the Hollywood stereotype of a singular mathematical genius operating alone, Prof Tao is admired for his eagerness to collaborate and for the outcomes achieved as a result of his efforts to combine ideas and build connections across fields. He has worked with many of the world’s other leading mathematicians and physicists to solve problems collectively, resulting in some of the greatest mathematical discoveries in areas of mathematical and scientific theory that had remained impossible to solve for centuries.

Today, Prof Tao focuses much of his energies on developing the next generation of mathematicians, both in his classes at UCLA and also through his engagement with the broader public. In January 2022, he teamed up with global learning platform MasterClass to launch their first series on mathematical thinking, in which he shares his approach to mathematical inquiry and shows viewers how they can apply maths in everyday situations, offering suggestions for enjoying the process of learning. 

Listen to the full interview with Professor Tao on our #BornGlobal podcast.  Available on your favourite podcast platforms or here on our website.

See Professor Tao’s response here to being named the Global Australian of the Year 2022 and photos from the presentation ceremony held in Los Angeles at the residence of the Consul-General to Los Angeles, Ambassador Jane Duke, in April 2023.

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