Fields Medal for Terry Tao
Terry Tao, former Adelaide student and Australian IMO Gold Medallist, has been awarded a Fields Medal in August 2006. The Fields Medal is the mathematics equivalent of the Nobel Prize, considered the highest award in mathematics. He is the first Australian to receive this Medal.
Born and schooled in Adelaide, Terry first came into national prominence when he won medals in the Australian Mathematics Competition for the Westpac Awards (administered by the Australian Mathematics Trust) in 1986 and 1987. Despite being just a 10 and 11 year old respectively in these respective years, Terry won these medals while being compared with year 12 students around Australia. In fact in 1987 he obtained a perfect score in this paper designed for year 11 and 12 students, and is photographed below receiving his 1987 medal from Sir Walter Campbell, Governor of Queensland, on 22 September in Government House Brisbane.
At this time Terry was also selected in Australia's teams to compete in the International Mathematical Olympiads (IMO), whose Australian participation is also administered by the Australian Mathematics Trust. He represented Australia in 1986, 1987 and 1988 against secondary students up to the age of 19 and while a 10 year old, 11 year old and 12 year old respectively he won successively Bronze, Silver and Gold Medals. He is still the only student to have ever won a Gold Medal at this international event without having reached the age of 13.
He went on to obtain a first class honours degree at Flinders University at the age of 15, PhD from Princeton at the age of 21 and full Professor at UCLA (where he still is) at the age of 24. He is also an Honorary Professor at the Australian National University.
Terry has made numerous contributions at the highest level of mathematics research, in several branches of mathematics, and recently proved with Professor Ben Green, of Cambridge University (a British Silver Medallist at IMOs in 1993 and 1994) a theorem showing that there are arithmetic progressions of primes of arbitrary size.
On 22 October 2006 it was also announced Terry would win an Indian award in Ramanujan's home town. See here for media report.
In May 2004 we posted this report on Terry's role in proving the theorem on arithmetic sequences of primes.
Terry (right) is shown with the Australian IMO team in Washington in 2001, while Terry was in Washington.
Terry (right) is shown with Peter McNamara, at that Washington IMO, when Peter became the first Australian to win two Gold Medals at IMO.