Australian wins Fields Medal

It deserves mention that an Australian, Terence Tao has won the Fields Medal for mathematics becoming the first Australian to win the prize. Up to four Fields Medals are handed out once every four years, and it is the mathematics equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

AT THE age of two, Terence Tao could already add up and subtract using the magnetic numbers his parents stuck on the fridge.

At eight, he scored better than 99 per cent of 17-year-old prospective university students on an international aptitude test for mathematics.

The Adelaide-born prodigy was appointed a professor at 24, and now, at 31, has become the first Australian to win a Fields Medal, the mathematics equivalent of a Nobel prize.

The award was presented in Madrid yesterday by Spain’s King Juan Carlos I at a congress attended by 4000 international mathematicians.

Its a bit difficult to work out what exactly he won it for as the Medal is not awarded for specific pieces of work. His website states a fairly broad area of mathematical interest, although it is suggested here that:

It is awarded for a body of work rather than a single achievement but Professor Tao is most recently celebrated for showing, with Ben Green of Cambridge, that there are long strings of prime numbers a constant distance apart, work that is important for the coding of information such as banking details.

Well done Terence.

Of further interest is the reason why Alfred Nobel chose not to make an award in Mathematics. The Fields Institute states:

The persistent rumor that Nobel did not establish a prize in mathematics because Mittag-Leffler had an affair with Nobel’s wife is certainly incorrect. Nobel never married. But the other version of this rumor, founded on hostility between Nobel and Mittag-Leffler, may be correct though there is no documentation to support it. Certainly there appear to have been ill feelings between the two men: according to a letter from J.L.Synge to H.S.Tropp [Tropp], Fields told Synge that this was the case, and Synge remarks that he later confirmed this himself in Sweden.

I do wonder if Maths (from a publicity perspective) would have been better following the path of Economics and giving a prize in memory of Alfred Nobel to be awarded by the Nobel committee and making everyone think they had a Nobel prize as well.

A better review of his work is on the UCLA news page

Tao was awarded the Fields Medal “for his contributions to partial differential equations, combinatorics, harmonic analysis and additive number theory.” In honoring Tao, the organization said, “Terence Tao is a supreme problem-solver whose spectacular work has had an impact across several mathematical areas. He combines sheer technical power, an other-worldly ingenuity for hitting upon new ideas, and a startlingly natural point of view that leaves other mathematicians wondering, ‘Why didn’t anyone see that before?’


2 Responses to Australian wins Fields Medal

  1. Just took myself off to the ‘Game of Life’ page and drew a random doodle that proceeded to turn into something rather arty… will be back again!

  2. Steve says:

    Its pretty cool, the idea that a few simple iterated rules can produce such amazingly complex structures.

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