First woman to win highest math award dies at 40

Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman to receive the Fields Medal for Mathematics, has lost a four-year battle against breast cancer.

"A light was turned off today", he said in a post.

"A genius? Yes. But also a daughter, a mother and a wife", he added in a subsequent post.

According to doctors, her cancer had spread to her bones.

At the time, she had become the first girl named on Iran's team in the International Mathematical Olympiad and had already won gold medals in the 1990s, NPR reported.

Stanford University says Mirzakhani died Saturday.

Stanford University in a statement said Mirzakhani was "ambitious, resolute and fearless in the face of problems others would not, or could not, tackle".

Here's a Harvard lecture by Mirzakahni in November of 2014, just nine months before she was awarded the Fields Medal.

The Fields Medal, often described as the mathematician's Nobel Prize, is given every four years to no more than four mathematicians, all of whom are 40 or younger.

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

"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 University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said.

In another interview, she said of her process: "I don't have any particular recipe [for developing new proofs] ..."

A year later, she became the first Iranian student to achieve a ideal score and win two gold medals at the Olympiad.

An Iranian origin, Mirzakhani was bestowed with this award in 2014 for her work on complex geometry and dynamical systems.

Mirzakhani at the time said she had dreamed of becoming a writer when she was young, before taking an interest in mathematical problems.

She won the prize for a 172-page paper on the trajectory of a billiards ball around a polygonal table that has been hailed as a "titanic work" and the "beginning of a new era" in mathematics.

She received her bachelor's degree from Iran's Sharif University of Technology in 1999 and earned a PhD degree in mathematics from Harvard University in 2004.

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

Mirzakhani is survived by her husband and a daughter.

  • Jon Douglas