7

Maryam Mirzakhani, only woman to win Fields Medal in mathematics, dies

Mirzakhani, a Stanford University professor, was the first woman to ever receive the prestigious award


 
This undated photo provided by Professor Maryam Mirzakhani via Stanford shows her on the university's campus. On Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, the Iranian-born Stanford University professor became the first woman to win math’s highest honor, the Fields Medal. The prize is awarded every four years to mathematicians 40 years old or younger. It was established in 1936. (AP Photo/Maryam Mirzakhani via Stanford)

This undated photo provided by Professor Maryam Mirzakhani via Stanford shows her on the university’s campus. On Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, the Iranian-born Stanford University professor became the first woman to win math’s highest honor, the Fields Medal. The prize is awarded every four years to mathematicians 40 years old or younger. It was established in 1936. (AP Photo/Maryam Mirzakhani via Stanford)

STANFORD, Calif. — Maryam Mirzakhani, a Stanford University professor who was the first and only woman to win the prestigious Fields Medal in mathematics, has died. She was 40.

Mirzakhani, who battled breast cancer, died on Saturday, the university announced. It did not indicate where she died.

In 2014 Mirzakhani was one of four winners of the Fields Medal, which is presented every four years and is considered the mathematics equivalent of the Nobel Prize. She was named for her work on complex geometry and dynamic systems.

“Mirzakhani specialized in theoretical mathematics that read like a foreign language by those outside of mathematics: moduli spaces, Teichmuller theory, hyperbolic geometry, Ergodic theory and symplectic geometry,” according to the Stanford press announcement. “Mastering these approaches allowed Mirzakhani to pursue her fascination for describing the geometric and dynamic complexities of curved surfaces—spheres, doughnut shapes and even amoebas – in as great detail as possible.”

The work had implications in fields ranging from cryptography to “the theoretical physics of how the universe came to exist,” the university said.

Mirzakhani was born in Tehran, Iran, and studied there and at Harvard University. She joined Stanford as a mathematics professor in 2008.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani issued a statement Saturday praising Mirzakhani. “The grievous passing of Maryam Mirzakhani, the eminent Iranian and world-renowned mathematician, is very much heartrending,” Rouhani said in a message that was reported by the Tehran Times.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said her death pained all Iranians, the Tehran Times reported.

“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 Farsi on his Instagram account. “I do offer my heartfelt condolences upon the passing of this lady scientist to all Iranians worldwide, her grieving family and the scientific community.”

Mirzakhani originally dreamed of becoming a writer but then shifted to mathematics.

When she was working, Mirzakhani would doodle on sheets of paper and scribble formulas on the edges of her drawings, leading her daughter to describe the work as painting, according to the Stanford statement.

Mirzakhani once described her work as “like being lost in a jungle and trying to use all the knowledge that you can gather to come up with some new tricks, and with some luck you might find a way out.”

Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne called Mirzakhani a brilliant theorist who made enduring contributions and inspired thousands of women to pursue math and science.

Mirzakhani is survived by her husband, Jan Vondrak, and daughter, Anahita.


 

Maryam Mirzakhani, only woman to win Fields Medal in mathematics, dies

  1. So young, and a medallist…..sad.

    RIP

    • A brilliant woman and an immigrant to the USA from Iran. The new travel ban will keep people like this superstar out. What a huge loss for a country that strives to be “great.”

      • Agreed.

        The damage repression does……….

    • Not just a “math geek” but the first woman to win this coveted prize in the 50 plus year history of the prize. No more can we say “girls can’t do math” because this woman proved they can. No more can we look down our noses at educations provided to women in so-called backward countries like Iran because incredibly bright, well educated and creative women with so much to offer in terms in forward thinking and innovation are coming out of these countries and their education systems. This “math geek” makes us question everything we thought we knew about girls, education and the successful advancement of knowledge. We don’t want to lose this level of talent due to fears that lead to bans on letting these kinds of intellectual giants into the west.

      • Perhaps made you question. I’ve known for decades.

        Friend of mine always blames the ‘missionaries’ for the negative propaganda. Missionaries go in and try to change cultures because that same culture has been doing ‘wrong’ for thousands of years. Don’t think like us? We’ll ‘change’ you so that you will. Everyone parroting the same shit. Pisses me off. I call it ‘bible’ think.

        Audit or take a university math or science course sometime. You’ll meet some very interesting people from all over the globe. You may even understand some of Mirzakhani’s work.:)

Sign in to comment.