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

Iranian Math Genius Mirzakhani Dies of Cancer
Maryam Mirzakhani, First Woman To Win Math's Highest Honor, Dies At 40
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16 July, 2017

She was the first recipient of the prestigious Fields Medal at a very young age.

Mirzakhani, who was from Iran, died of breast cancer in the U.S., a relative told Iran's Mehr News Agency.

Mirzakhani won the Fields Medal in 2014 for her work on geometry and dynamical systems and was the first Iranian to win the prize.

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.

She earned a doctoral degree from Harvard University in 2004 and became full professor of mathematics at Stanford at the age of 31.

"In short, Mirzakhani was fascinated by the geometric and dynamic complexities of curved surfaces - spheres, doughnut shapes and even amoebas. Also, everyone has a different style, and something that works for one person might not be so great for others", she said.

"It breaks my heart... gone far too soon", she wrote.

Firouz Naderi’s post in Instagram in reaction to Mirzakhani’s death
Firouz Naderi’s post in Instagram in reaction to Mirzakhani’s death

Mirzakhani said mathematics made her feel like a detective. 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 doctors, her cancer had spread to her bones. The distinguished prize, often nicknamed as the "Nobel Prize for Mathematics", is only awarded every four years to between two and four mathematicians under 40.

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

Mirzakhani died Saturday, Stanford University said.

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.

"There are different characters, and you are getting to know them better", she said.

Following earlier news that Mirzakhani's health had taken a turn for the worse, a spokesperson for the Iranian foreign ministry told Mehr News that Iranians worldwide were proud of her.

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