Maryam Mirzakhani, First Woman to Win Math’s Highest Honor, Dies At 40

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Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian who became the first woman to win math’s most prestigious prize, died Saturday after a four-year battle with breast cancer.

She was 40 years old.

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In 2014, Mirzakhani was awarded the Fields Medal, which is commonly referred to as the “Nobel Prize for Mathematics" in order for those outside of the industry to fully grasp its importance.

It's only given out once every four years and Mirzakhani earned the distinction for her work on dynamical systems and complex geometry.

Along with being the first female, she was also the first Iranian to garner the medal, which was created in 1936.

Born in Tehran, Mirzakhani came to the United States in order to attend graduate school at Harvard University.

She started working as a professor at Stanford University in 2008 and the school confirmed her passing on Saturday via its website.

“Maryam is gone far too soon, but her impact will live on for the thousands of women she inspired to pursue math and science,” said Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne in a statement, adding:

"Maryam was a brilliant mathematical theorist, and also a humble person who accepted honors only with the hope that it might encourage others to follow her path.

"Her contributions as both a scholar and a role model are significant and enduring, and she will be dearly missed here at Stanford and around the world."


For the final four years of her life, Mirzakhani battle breast cancer, which eventually spread to her bone marrow.

In response to her passing, Iranian-American scientist Firouz Naderi shared his grief on Instagram, writing the following on Instagram:

“A light was turned off today... It breaks my heart.”

He later emphasized that Mirzakhani was a "genius, but also a daughter, a mother and a wife."

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Mirzakhani once famous said that mathematics made her feel like a detective.

“It is fun - it’s like solving a puzzle or connecting the dots in a detective case,” she said after winning the Fields Medal, according to NPR.

“I felt that this was something I could do, and I wanted to pursue this path.”

May she rest in peace.

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