July 26, 2017

Maryam Mirzakhani, First Woman To Win Math's Highest Honor, Dies At 40

16 July 2017, 12:58 | Candice Butler

Maryam Mirzakhani. Credit Stanford University

Maryam Mirzakhani. Credit Stanford University

Mirzakhani was 40 years old.

Groundbreaking Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani, who became the first woman to receive the coveted Fields Medal, has died following a battle with breast cancer. Mirzakhani received the medal in 2014 for her work on complex geometry and dynamical systems.

Mirzakhani was a professor in the USA at Stanford University's mathematics department, having graduated from Iran's Sharif University of Technology in 1999 and earning her PhD in mathematics from Harvard University in 2004.

Mirzakhani was born in Tehran and lived there until she began her doctorate work at Harvard University, later taking a professorship at Stanford University.

Professor Maryam Mirzakhani, the recipient of the 2014 Fields Medal, the top honor in mathematics. "Maryam was a brilliant mathematical theorist, and also a humble person who accepted honors only with the hope that it might encourage others to follow her math. Gone far too soon", he wrote.

Iranian-American scientist Firouz Naderi shared his grief on Instagram.

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Her death was confirmed Saturday by Stanford University, where Mirzakhani had been a professor since 2008.

"You're torturing yourself along the way", she would offer, "but life isn't supposed to be easy".

At the time she was praised for the stunning advances she had made in some of the most complicated areas of the mathematics.

According to the awarding committee, Mirzakhani's genius came from her "rare combination of superb technical ability, bold ambition, far-reaching vision, and deep curiosity".

A self-professed "slow" mathematician, Mirzakhani denied herself the easy path, choosing instead to tackle thornier issues. In a way, she told Quanta, working on mathematics is a lot like writing a novel. "Things evolve, and then you look back at a character, and it's completely different from your first impression".

Mirzakhani is survived by Jan Vondrák her husband who is a Czech theoretical computer scientist and associate professor at Stanford University, and a daughter named Anahita.

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