Who is the greatest mathematician of the 21st century?

Many will say that there are lot of mathematicians this 21st Century but the question is “Who is the greatest mathematician of the 21st?”

His name is Terence Tao, Being a prodigy, he was introduced to and fell in love with mathematics at a very early age.

Therefore, it can be said, naively, that he has much time to explore different areas of mathematics. He is vibrant and sociable and gives attention to mathematical problems that people meeting him come up with.

He has definitely surveyed many areas of mathematics at a reasonably deeper level. But prodigies have this characteristic feature.

Some facts about his early life and career:

  • He started to learn calculus when he was 7, at which age he began high school.
  • By 9 he was already very good at university-level calculus.
  • By 11, he was thriving in international mathematics competitions.
  • By 20 he earned his Ph.D. from Princeton University, and he joined UCLA’s faculty that year. UCLA promoted him to full professor at age 24.
  • His paper “The primes contain arbitrarily long arithmetic progressions” has been awarded as one of the 100 most important discoveries in all of science for 2004.
  • In 2006, at the age of 31, he was awarded of the Fields Medal for “his contributions to partial differential equations, combinatorics, harmonic analysis and additive number theory”

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Some thought about him from other colleagues:

Someone like Terry comes along once every few decades


[Tony Chan, dean of the Division of Physical Sciences and professor of mathematics at UCLA University]

“Terry wrote 56 papers in two years, and they’re all high-quality. In a good year, I write three papers.”

[John Garnett, professor and former chair of mathematics at UCLA]

Tao’s mathematical knowledge has an extraordinary combination of breadth and depth: he can write confidently and authoritatively on topics as diverse as partial differential equations, analytic number theory, the geometry of 3-manifolds, nonstandard analysis, group theory, model theory, quantum mechanics, probability, ergodic theory, combinatorics, harmonic analysis, image processing, functional analysis, and many others.

Some of these are areas to which he has made fundamental contributions. Others are areas that he appears to understand at the deep intuitive level of an expert despite officially not working in those areas.

How he does all this, as well as writing papers and books at a prodigious rate, is a complete mystery.

It has been said that Hilbert was the last person to know all of mathematics, but it is not easy to find gaps in Tao’s knowledge, and if you do then you may well find that the gaps have been filled a year later.

[Timothy Gowers, mathematician at Statistical Department in Cambridge]

“If you’re stuck on a problem, then one way out is to interest Terence Tao”

[Charles Fefferman professor of mathematics at Princeton University

What can we learn from Terence Tao?

You can learn how to prove that primes come in longer and longer arithmetic progressions. You can also learn the proof of many other theorems of depth and elegance, and some pedagogical things on his blog

What should I do to be a genius like Terence Tao?

First rule of succeeding in life is “Don’t procrastinate.”

Second rule is “Play the cards you are dealt”

Terrence Tao may possibly be the person with the highest IQ recorded and far less possibly the highest IQ ever. This makes being his equal statistically extremely unlikely.

Every being has been dealt their individual life circumstances by God or some other means, but maybe instead of asking how could you have the highest card in a deck of cards, you could start asking how could I play the cards I have to achieve the best outcome.

How can I be like Terence Tao?

If you try to be like another person, the best you can be is a second-rate copy. And why would you want that to be your goal? Be yourself and be the best self you can be. The only person you can be better than a second-rate copy of, is yourself. It’s that simple.

Is Terence Tao overrated?

No. Let me tell you a story about Terry Tao.

I was at a conference in Palo Alto. It was the first day, and I was walking over to the American Institute of Mathematics. I walked up to a group of people heading in that direction and introduced myself.

For some reason (I’m still not sure why), I guessed that they were also graduate students (or that some of them were). In my defense, I was still adjusting to a new time zone.

One of the people in the group introduced himself as Terry. We talked a little bit, with me happily oblivious, until we finally reached AIM, and it suddenly dawned on me who I was talking to.

Embarrassed, I apologized immediately. Terry’s response: “You know, I was just flattered that I look young enough to be a graduate student.”

Terry Tao is a brilliant mathematician, but more importantly, he is a very down to earth, humble individual, and he will forever have my respect.

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