Terence Tao Biography

Terence Tao is an Australian-American mathematician who has made significant contributions to the field of mathematics. With a passion for mathematics since childhood, Tao has achieved remarkable success from a young age. He is known for his notable works such as the ‘Green-Tao theorem’, ‘Tao’s inequality’, ‘Kakeya Conjecture’, and ‘Horn Conjecture’. Tao has received numerous awards and is a recipient of the prestigious titles of ‘Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science’ and ‘Fellow of the Royal Society’. Currently, he is a professor at the Department of Mathematics at UCLA, where he focuses on various branches of mathematics and is actively involved in teaching and research. Additionally, Tao is a part of the ‘Analysis Group’ at UCLA and serves as an editor for several mathematical journals.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Terence Chi-Shen Ta
  • Age: 48 Years, 48 Year Old Males
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Laura Tao
    • Father: Billy Tao
    • Mother: Grace Tao
    • Siblings: Nigel Tao, Trevor Tao
    • Children: William Tao
  • Born Country: Australia
  • Mathematicians
  • American Men
  • Ancestry: Hong Kong American, Chinese Australian, Australian American
  • Notable Alumni: Flinders University
  • City: Adelaide, Australia
  • More Facts
  • Education: Princeton University, Flinders University
  • Awards: Fields Medal, MacArthur Fellowship, Fellow of the Royal Society, Royal Medal, Crafoord Prize, Salem Prize, Bôcher Memorial Prize, Clay Research Award, Ostrowski Prize, Nemmers Prize in Mathematics, Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics, SASTRA Ramanujan Prize, Levi L. Conant Prize, King Faisal International Prize, Australian Mathematical Society Medal, Alan T. Waterman Award, George Pólya Prize, Onsager Medal, Fulbright Program

Childhood & Early Age

Terence Tao was born on 17 July 1975 in Adelaide, Australia. His father, Dr. Billy Tao, is a paediatrician, and his mother, Grace was school teacher of mathematics and physics in Hong Kong. Dr. Billy Tao was born in Shanghai and had earned his MBBS degree from University of Hong Kong in 1969. Whereas, Tao’s mother Grace had received a first-class honours degree in physics and mathematics from University of Hong Kong.

Tao has two brothers, Trevor and Nigel, who live in Australia. Both Trevor and Nigel have represented Australia at the International Mathematical Olympiad. Also, Tao’s brothers too have contributed exceptionally to the field of mathematics.

Tao was two years old when his parents started to notice that he was different from other children. He would teach five year olds spellings and addition. When his parents questioned him about his skills, he would answer that he learned it by watching Sesame Street on television.

Tao’s parents decided to put him in school when he was three and a half years of age. But soon enough they realised that he wasn’t ready for schooling. Also, his teachers found it difficult to teach a genius like him.

At the age of five, Tao started going to school like other children. By his eighth birthday, he was attending Blackwood High School in Adelaide. Even at early age, one would find him sitting at far corner reading hardback book like ‘Calculus’.

When Tao was eleven years old, he started taking classes at Flinders University in Adelaide along with attending his classes at Blackwood High School. Garth Gaudry was his professor at Flinders University.

Tao submitted his first research paper at the age of 15. He completed his bachelor’s degree in 1991 and master’s degree in 1992 from Flinders University.

After completing his master’s degree, Terence Tao was awarded the University Medal at Flinders University and a Fulbright Postgraduate Scholarship which helped him in undertaking research in the US.

Tao undertook research at Princeton University and was an assistant researcher from 1993-94. He was awarded a Sloan Postgraduate Fellowship in 1995. In June 1996, he was awarded doctorate degree for his thesis ‘Three regularity results in harmonic analysis’.


After completing his PhD at the age of 21, Terence Tao joined the University of California as a faculty. At the age of 24, he became a full-time professor at UCLA and the youngest ever to be appointed on that rank at UCLA.

Along with Ben J. Green of Oxford University, Tao proved the Green-Tao theorem which is one of his acclaimed works. By 2006, Tao had worked with over 30 others and collaborated with 68 co-authors.

For his Green-Tao theorem, Tao received many medals and awards. He became the youngest mathematician, and the first UCLA faculty member to be awarded Fields Medal in 2006.

For his phenomenal work, he was nominated for Australian of the Year in 2007. Tao published another work ‘Tao’s inequality’ in the same year.

In 2007, Tao and a Vietnamese Mathematician from Yale University, Van H. Vu unravelled the circular law conjecture.

In 2010, along with Ben Green, Tao came up with proof of the Hardy-Littlewood prime tuples conjecture for any linear system of finite complexity.

He also contributed to the study of Erdos-Straus conjecture, in 2011. In this study, he proved that the number of solutions to the Erdos-Straus equation increases polylogarithmically as n tends to infinity.

In 2012, Tao proved that every odd integer greater than 1 is the sum of at most five primes. In the same year, he was also selected as a Simons Investigator and received Crafoord Prize with Jean Bourgain.

Ben Green and Tao collaborated again in 2012 and proved Dirac-Motzkin conjecture and the ‘orchard-planting problem’. Also, Tao published his first monograph on the topic ‘Higher Order Fourier Analysis’.

Tao proved Erdos discrepancy problem in September 2015, using entropy estimates with analytic number theory for the first time.

Major Works

Terrence Tao’s contribution to the field of mathematics has been huge. But, his most notable work has been the Green-Tao theorem which he proved with his long-time collaborator, Ben Green. Due to this work, Tao became a corresponding member of the Australian Academy of Science. In 2007, he was also elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society. Also, Tao was awarded the Australian Mathematical Society Medal of 2004 for the Green-Tao theorem.

Awards & Achievements

Right from the time when Tao was ten years old, he began participating in International Mathematical Olympiads. In 1986 he won a bronze medal, in 1987 a silver medal and in 1988 gold medal, thus becoming the youngest to win a gold medal in Mathematical Olympiad.

Tao has received a Salem Prize in 2000 and an American Mathematical Society Bocher Memorial Prize in 2002.

In 2003, Tao received Clay Research Award given to mathematicians to appreciate their efforts and achievements in mathematical research.

In 2005, he received the ISAAC Award from the International Society of Analysis and in 2006 the SASTRA Ramanujan Prize.

He was one of the co-recipients of the Fields Medal in 2006. Fields is considered as the mathematician’s “Nobel Prize”.

He won the 2014 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics for numerous breakthrough contributions to harmonic analysis, combinatorics, partial differential equations and analytic number theory.

Personal Life

Terrence Tao’s parents met at the University of Hong Kong as students. Later, they emigrated from Hong Kong to Australia where Tao was born. His wife Laura works at NASA in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an engineer. They have a son and a daughter and live in Los Angeles, California.

Tao’s contribution to mathematics has been enormous with over 300 research papers and 17 books so far.

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