Mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani, First Woman to Win Fields Medal, Dies Age 40

Mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani, First Woman to Win Fields Medal, Dies Age 40

And then, in 2014, she received the highest honor in mathematics: 80 years after the award was established, Mirzakhani became the first woman to win the Fields Medal.

Three years later, the Iranian math prodigy died on Saturday of cancer in a US hospital.

The mathematics professor, who was born in 1977, won a gold medal in the 1994 International Mathematical Olympiad, the first female Iranian student to do so. She left Iran to pursue her post-graduate degree in the United States, earning a PhD from Harvard in 2004.

In short, Mirzakhani was fascinated by the geometric and dynamic complexities of curved surfaces - spheres, doughnut shapes and even amoebas.

"What's so special about Maryam, the thing that really separates her, is the originality in how she puts together these disparate pieces", said Steven Kerckhoff, at the time of her Fields Medal award.

Echoing similar view, Mirzakhani's friend from NASA, Firouz Naderi, said, "A light was turned off today".

"The news of young Iranian genius and math professor Maryam Mirzakhani's passing has brought a deep pang of sorrow to me and all Iranians who are proud of their eminent and distinguished scientists", Zarif posted in Persian on his Instagram account, reported the Tehran Times.

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"Maryam is gone far too soon, but her impact will live on for the thousands of women she inspired to pursue math and science", Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said in a statement.

Mirzakhani, who joined Stanford in 2008, specialized in theoretical mathematics.

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

In a 2014 interview with the Guardian, she described the excitement and challenge of mathematics.

Mirzakhani enjoyed pure mathematics because of its "elegance and longevity", she said. In a way, she told Quanta, working on mathematics is a lot like writing a novel.

Mirzakhani is survived by her husband, an associate professor at Stanford University, and daughter Anahita.

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