Terence Tao, commonly known as Terry Tao, has been called his generation’s greatest mathematician and arguably the most important living mathematician. Tao, a child prodigy from South Australia, was the 10-year-old winner of the youngest medal in the history of the International Mathematical Olympiad. Since then, he has received many awards including the Field Medal, known as the Nobel Prize for math. In the 70 years the International Mathematical Union has given out the medal, only 48 researchers have ever received it. Tao was awarded the honor “for his contributions to partial differential equations, combinatorics, harmonic analysis, and additive number theory” in the year 2006.1,2  

Tao excelled in math from a young age. The talented Australian mathematician Terence Tao first displayed his precocious talent at the age of 2 when he began teaching other children to count. At the age of 7, he started high school, and by the age of 9, he was taking calculus at the university level! When he competed in the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) at the age of 10, he became the youngest student to receive three medals.2,3

At the age of 14, Tao participated in the Research Science Institute, a summer program offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for gifted high school students. He graduated from Princeton University with his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in math at the age of 16. At the age of 20, he earned his Ph.D. from Princeton. When he joined the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) at 24, he was the institution’s youngest-ever professor.2,3

Why is Terence Tao so Famous?

In addition to being a child prodigy, Terence Tao is a highly competent mathematician whose work is distinguished by a high level of originality. Having a natural aptitude for collaborating with experts from many domains, his work frequently crosses several study boundaries leading to substantial and long-lasting contributions in a wide range of fields.4

Tao’s primary work focuses on partial differential equation theory, a branch of calculus that deals with nonlinear problems or the math of change. People who are familiar with him are undoubtedly aware that he has an excellent command of seemingly all the math concepts, which is an uncommon accomplishment, especially in this day and age of specialization. Apart from this, he also made substantial contributions in other subjects. Some of these include: probability theory, number theory, computer science, and statistical analysis.1,2,5

Tao has made significant contributions to the subject of number theory by discovering prime number sequences and showing that they may be located in evenly spaced progressions of every finite length. One of the few unsolved Clay Millennium Problems, the Navier-Stokes Equation, has lately been approached in a novel way by him.4,6

These are just a handful of his most important contributions to mathematics, in addition to Tao’s inequality, the Green-Tao Theorem, the Kakeya Conjecture, and the Horn Conjecture. Tao is also a recognized author and has won numerous honors for his work throughout his career.4,7,8

Suggested readings: 

Top 5 Unsolvable Math in All Time History

The Astounding Brilliance and Greatest Contributions of John von Neumann

What makes Isaac Newton one of the Most Influential Figures in Scientific History?

Who is Al-Khwārizmī, and What Contributions did He Make to the World of Math?

Albert Einstein’s Remarkable Contributions to the World of Mathematics

Archimedes Contributions to the World of Mathematical Physics

You can read more motivational posts about math and coding at BYJU’S FutureSchool Blog.


  1. Terence Tao, ‘Mozart of Math,’ is first UCLA math prof to win Fields Medal | UCLA. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2022, from https://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/Terence-Tao-Mozart-of-Math-7252 
  2. Terence Tao (1975 – ) – Biography – MacTutor History of Mathematics. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2022, from https://mathshistory.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Tao/ 
  3. Chang, K. (2007). BLOGGED SEARCHED E-MAILED Journeys to the Distant Fields of Prime. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/13/science/13prof.html?8dpc=&pagewanted=all 
  4. Terence Tao | Australian mathematician | Britannica. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2022, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Terence-Tao 
  5. Mind of a Mathematician | Princeton Alumni Weekly. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2022, from https://paw.princeton.edu/article/mind-mathematician 
  6. If You Can Explain What Happens When Smoke Comes Off A Cigarette, You’ll Get A $1 Million Prize | Business Insider India. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2022, from https://www.businessinsider.in/finance/if-you-can-explain-what-happens-when-smoke-comes-off-a-cigarette-youll-get-a-1-million-prize/articleshow/45014199.cms 
  7. Terence Tao, dubbed the “Mozart of maths”, wins Global Australian of the Year award – ABC News. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2022, from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-09-14/terence-tao-reflects-on-university-mathematics-and-computing/101429186 
  8. Terence Tao: Mozart of Math | IMPA – Instituto de Matemática Pura e Aplicada. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2022, from https://impa.br/en_US/noticias/terence-tao-mozart-of-math/