Yitang “Tom” Zhang used to be a calculus teacher at UNH and apparently a good one – students praised him on RateMyProfessors.com, unusual for a mathematician with a strong accent – when he published a breakthrough in the twin-prime problem that made him quite famous for a mathematician.
I’ve written about him many times, and now he’s the subject of a short documentary film that will be coming to Concord’s Red River Theater. Even better, I’m going to host a talk afterwards with Edward Hinson, who was the math department chair when Zhang (now in California) went from quiet to well-known.
The showing will start at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 23. I’ll have more details next week. In the meantime, here’s a bit from my interview with Zhang in 2013, when news of his work first broke:
How do you do your job? This is how Tom Zhang does his:
“I just start to think about the question. I walk around the room, maybe outside,” said Zhang, a UNH mathematics professor who drew global attention last week for making a big step toward solving a number-theory problem that dates back to the ancient Greeks. “The most important thing is to keep thinking, for hours, for days, for weeks, for months, whenever you have time. … Even when I’m sleeping.”
That was about all he said to me. Zhang seemed overwhelmed by the attention – was so unassuming back then that his UNH profile page didn’t even have a photo of him. That may have changed; after all, he’s even won a MacArthur “genius” Grant.