Maryam Mirzakhani, prize-winning mathematician, dies at 40

Maryam Mirzakhani. Credit Stanford University
Maryam Mirzakhani. Credit Stanford University
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16 July, 2017

Mirzakhani was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, and after fiercely batting this terrible disease for four years, she died on July 15, 2017.

Born in Tehran in 1977, Mirzakhani won two global math awards as a teenager.

After receiving her bachelor's degree in mathematics from the prestigious Sharif University of Technology in 1999, she moved to the United States and earned her a PhD from Harvard University five years later.

In 1994, she won the gold medal in the Iranian International Mathematical Olympiad at age 17.

Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne called Mirzakhani a brilliant theorist "who made enduring contributions and inspired thousands of women to pursue math and science".

Stanford University in a statement said Mirzakhani was "ambitious, resolute and fearless in the face of problems others would not, or could not, tackle". "Gone far too soon", Iran-born NASA scientist Firouz Naderi posted on Twitter. "It breaks my heart... gone far too soon." in an Instagram posting.

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Early in her life, Mirzakhani had wanted to be a writer.

Her honors also include the 2009 Blumenthal Award for the Advancement of Research in Pure Mathematics and the 2013 Satter Prize of the American Mathematical Society. Her questions came in English.

Mirzakhani, who joined Stanford in 2008, specialized in theoretical mathematics.

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 the Fields Medal in 2014 for her outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces. She said in interviews that she liked the interdisciplinary connections and implications of her work. "Things evolve, and then you look back at a character, and it's completely different from your first impression".

Mirzakhani is survived by her husband, an associate professor at Stanford University, and daughter Anahita.


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