The first woman to win mathematics’ equivalent of a Nobel Prize dies

maryam mirzakhani math professor field medal breast cancer stanford university
Mirzakhani was the first woman to win the Fields Medal, which is
often called the “Nobel Prize of mathematics.”


STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — 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

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

fields medal

“Mirzakhani specialized in theoretical mathematics that read like
a foreign language by those outside of mathematics: moduli
spaces, Teichmüller 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.

A brilliant life cut short

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

She originally dreamed of becoming a writer but then shifted to

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.

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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 Vondrák, and daughter,