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

Delia Watkins
July 16, 2017

The Stanford University math professor was the first woman to ever win the prestigious Fields Medal, and we've got the latest report on the sad news.

The 40-year-old died of breast cancer, which had spread to her bones.

"The Stanford University professor won the Fields Medal, which is considered the 'Nobel Prize for mathematics", in 2014.

Born May 3, 1977 in Tehran, Iran, she was an outstanding mathematics student.

Mirzakhani studied mathematics in Iran and earned a PhD degree from Harvard in 2004.

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

Friend Firouz Naderi announced Mirzakhani's death on Saturday on Instagram and relatives subsequently confirmed her death to the Mehr agency in Iran.

"This is a great honor", she was quoted as saying in 2014.

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"It breaks my heart... gone far too soon", she wrote. She went on to win the 2009 Blumenthal Award for the Advancement of Research in Pure Mathematics, and the 2013 Satter Prize of the American Mathematical Society.

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".

Mirzakhani was also a two-time gold medal victor in the International Mathematical Olympiad, a victor of the 2009 Blumenthal Award for the Advancement of Research in Pure Mathematics and the 2013 Satter Prize of the American Mathematical Society.

She was an assistant professor at Princeton University before moving to Stanford.

"I find it fascinating that you can look at the same problem from different perspectives and approach it using different methods", she said.

Mirzakhani joined the faculty at Stanford in the San Francisco Bay area in 2008.

In 2014, she told Quanta Magazine, a science publication, that she thought about mathematics in pictures, doodling her ideas on giant sheets of paper scattered across her office. "Things evolve, and then you look back at a character, and it's completely different from your first impression".

In the same interview, she said she spent her free time with family and her husband.

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