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Terence Tao Receives MacArthur Fellowship

Terence Tao Receives MacArthur Fellowship

Terence Tao is on a hot streak. In the space of a few months he has won a Fields Medal (see page 6), published a book, and received one of the coveted MacArthur Fellowships, often referred to as the "Genius Grants." A press release from UCLA has one of his colleagues describing him as "like Mozart, mathematics just flows out of him, except without Mozart's personality problems; everyone likes him."

Tao was the only mathematician in this year's list of MacArthur Fellows, which described him as "bringing technical brilliance and profound insight to a host of seemingly intractable problems in such areas as partial differential equations, harmonic analysis, combinatorics, and number theory."

Tao was born in Adelaide, Australia, in 1975. His talent became clear very early, and he excelled in mathematical competitions at a young age. He received his PhD from Princeton in 1996 and is now Professor of Mathematics at the University of California Los Angeles. His mathematical work is very broad, ranging from harmonic analysis and partial differential equations to number theory, with many stops in between. Tao has published more than fifty papers and several books. Though most of his best work is on harmonic analysis and PDEs, he is probably best known for his work with Ben Green showing that there exist arbitrarily long arithmetic progressions of prime numbers.

Tao has just published Solving Mathematical Problems: A Personal Perspective (Oxford University Press), which focuses on olympiad-level problems and how to solve them. This is actually a new edition of a book first published in 1992 by a no longer extant Australian publisher. Tao's other books are fairly technical, but this one seems to have the potential for a particularly large audience.

The MacArthur Fellowships are unrestricted grants awarded to brilliant and creative people to allow them to continue to do the things they do so well. The criteria, according to the Foundation, are "exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work." The MacArthur Fellowships come with a $500,000 stipend over five years, and have a "no strings attached" policy. The Fellows can come from any area of human endeavor. This year's list of 25 Fellows includes pharmaceutical entrepreneur Victoria Hale, children's book author David Macaulay, jazz violinist Regina Carter, country doctor D. Holmes Morton & and one mathematician.

For more information on Tao, visit his home page, at For more on the MacArthur Fellows, see

News Date: 
Friday, October 27, 2006