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Maryam Mirzakhani, first woman to win Fields Medal, dies aged 40
16 July 2017, 12:54 | Kristen Gross
Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani is the first woman to be awarded the prestigious Fields Medal Standford University
"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.
The world-renowned Iranian mathematician and Stanford professor died from breast cancer at a hospital in the United States.
Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne called Mirzakhani a brilliant theorist "who made enduring contributions and inspired thousands of women to pursue math and science". "Gone far too soon", Iran-born NASA scientist Firouz Naderi posted on Twitter. "It breaks my heart... gone far too soon", she wrote. But her passion and gift for mathematics eventually won out.
Zahra Ahmadipour, the head of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization (ICHTO), referred to Mirzakhani as a spiritual heritage of the Iranian nation and a genius who solved the "equation of life", rushing to meet her Creator. In an interview, she once said, "Doing mathematics for me is like being on a long hike with no trail and no end in sight".
After her doctorate at Harvard, Mirzakhani accepted a position as assistant professor at Princeton University and as a research fellow at the Clay Mathematics Institute before joining the Stanford faculty. Marie-Curie had Nobel prizes in physics and chemistry at the beginning of the 20th century, but in mathematics this is the first time we have a woman winning the most prestigious prize.
Her death was confirmed Saturday by Stanford University, where Mirzakhani had been a professor since 2008. She became a professor at Stanford University in 2008.
Professor Mirzakhani won the prize in 2014 for her work on geometry and dynamical systems.
The 40-year-old had breast cancer, which had spread to her bones, BBC reported. Her questions came in English.
Maryam Mirzakhani is awarded with the 2014 Fields medal at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Seoul, South Korea on August 13, 2014.
"I find it fascinating that you can look at the same problem from different perspectives and approach it using different methods", she said. A colleague speculated that perhaps she organized her thoughts like this because the "problems she is working on are so abstract and complicated, she can't afford to make logical steps one by one but has to make big jumps".
Mirzakhani enjoyed pure mathematics because of its "elegance and longevity", she said.
"There are different characters, and you are getting to know them better", she said.
She is survived by husband Jan Vondrák, a Czech theoretical computer scientist, and their daughter Anahita.
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