I recently returned to an article from The New York Times Magazine. It’s about Terry Tao, a mathematician, and I love the description of Tao’s working methods.
Key words: bridge-builder, collaborator, celebrates the work of others, shares, documents, delights in corrections, comments, cooperative, network, connecting.
Tao has emerged as one of the field’s great bridge-builders. At the time of his Fields Medal, he had already made discoveries with more than 30 different collaborators. Since then, he has also become a prolific math blogger with a decidedly non-Gaussian ebullience: He celebrates the work of others, shares favorite tricks, documents his progress and delights at any corrections that follow in the comments. He has organized cooperative online efforts to work on problems. ‘‘Terry is what a great 21st-century mathematician looks like,’’ Jordan Ellenberg, a mathematician at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who has collaborated with Tao, told me. He is ‘‘part of a network, always communicating, always connecting what he is doing with what other people are doing.’’