Yitang Zhang

Yitang Zhang

Yitang Zhang
Born 1955 (age 59–60)
Shanghai, China
Residence United States
Nationality United States
Fields Mathematics
Institutions University of New Hampshire (Lecturer 1999-2013; Professor 2014-Present)
Alma mater Purdue University (PhD 1991)
Peking University (B.A. 1982; M.A. 1984) [1]
Thesis The Jacobian Conjecture And The Degree Of Field Extension (1992)
Doctoral advisor Tzuong-Tsieng Moh (Chinese: 莫宗堅) [2]
Known for Establishing the existence of an infinitely repeatable prime 2-tuple [3]
Notable awards Ostrowski Prize (2013)
Cole Prize (2014)
Rolf Schock Prize (2014)
MacArthur Fellowship (2014)
Academia Sinica Fellow (2014) [1]

Yitang "Tom" Zhang (Romanized form: Yitang Zhang, Chinese: 张益唐, Zhāng Yìtáng)[4] is a Chinese-born American mathematician working in the area of number theory. While working for the University of New Hampshire as a lecturer, Zhang submitted an article to the Annals of Mathematics in 2013 that established the first finite bound on gaps between prime numbers, leading to a 2014 MacArthur award and his appointment as a professor.[5][6]


  • Education 1
  • Career 2
  • Research 3
  • Honors and awards 4
  • Political views 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Zhang was born in Shanghai and lived there until he was 13 years old. At the age of 23, Zhang entered Peking University in 1978 as an undergraduate student and received his B.Sc. degree in mathematics in 1982. He became a graduate student of Professor Pan Chengbiao, a number theorist at Peking University, and obtained his M.Sc. degree in mathematics in 1984.[1]

After receiving his master's degree in mathematics, with recommendations from Professor Ding Shisun, the President of Peking University, and Professor Deng Donggao, Chair of the university's Math Department,[7] Zhang was granted a full scholarship at Purdue University. Zhang arrived at Purdue in January 1985, studied there for seven years, and obtained his Ph.D. in mathematics in December 1991.


Zhang's Ph.D. work was on the Jacobian conjecture. After graduation, Zhang had a hard time finding an academic position. In an interview with Nautilus magazine, Zhang said he did not get a job after graduation because "during that period it was difficult to find a job in academics... Also, my advisor did not write me letters of recommendation."[8] However, Moh, his Ph.D. advisor at Purdue, claimed that Zhang never came back to him requesting recommendation letters.[7] In a detailed profile published in The New Yorker magazine in February 2015, Alec Wilkinson wrote Zhang "parted unhappily" with Moh, "left Purdue without Moh’s support, and, having published no papers, was unable to find an academic job".[9] After some years, Zhang managed to find a position as a lecturer at the University of New Hampshire, where he was hired by Kenneth Appel in 1999. Prior to getting back to academia, he worked for several years as an accountant and a delivery worker for a New York City restaurant. He also worked in a motel in Kentucky and in a Subway sandwich shop.[3] He served as a lecturer at UNH from 1999[10] until around January 2014, when UNH appointed him to a full professorship.[11] In 2015, he became a Professor of Mathematics at University of California, Santa Barbara.


On April 17, 2013, Zhang announced a proof that there are infinitely many pairs of prime numbers that differ by 70 million or less. This result implies the existence of an infinitely repeatable prime 2-tuple,[3] thus establishing a theorem akin to the twin prime conjecture. Zhang's paper was accepted by Annals of Mathematics in early May 2013.[5] The proof was refereed by leading experts in analytic number theory.[6]

If P(N) stands for the proposition that there is an infinitude of pairs of prime numbers (not necessarily consecutive primes) that differ by exactly N, then Zhang's result is equivalent to the statement that there exists at least one even integer k < 70,000,000 such that P(k) is true. The classical form of the twin prime conjecture is equivalent to P(2); and in fact it has been conjectured that P(k) holds for all even integers k.[12][13] While these stronger conjectures remain unproven, a recent result due to James Maynard, employing a different technique, has shown that P(k) for some k ≤ 600.[14] Subsequently, the Polymath project 8 lowered the bound to k ≤ 246.[15] k ≤ 6 is thought to be the best attainable with current methods, and in fact k ≤ 12 and k ≤ 6 follow using current methods if also the Elliott–Halberstam conjecture and its generalisation holds.[6][15]

Honors and awards

Zhang was awarded the 2013 Morningside Special Achievement Award in Mathematics,[16] the 2013 Ostrowski Prize,[17] the 2014 Frank Nelson Cole Prize in Number Theory,[11][18] and the 2014 Rolf Schock Prize[19] in Mathematics.

He is a recipient of the 2014 MacArthur award,[20] and was elected as an Academia Sinica Fellow during the same year.[1]

Political views

In 1989 Zhang joined a group interested in Chinese democracy (中国民联). In a 2013 interview, he affirmed that his political views on the subject hadn't changed since.[21][22]


  1. ^ a b c d
  2. ^ Yitang Zhang at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  3. ^ a b c
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b (subscription required)
  6. ^ a b c
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^
  9. ^ http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/02/pursuit-beauty
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^

External links

  • Alec Wilkinson, The Pursuit of Beauty, Yitang Zhang solves a pure-math mystery, The New Yorker, Profiles, February 2, 2015 issue
  • [1] Discover Magazine article by Steve Nadis, "Prime Solver"
  • Gaps between Primes – Numberphile - University of Nottingham video (shorter version)
  • Gaps between Primes (extra footage) – Numberphile (longer version)