Maryam Mirzakhani, Only Woman to Win a Fields Medal, Dies at 40
Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian mathematician who was the only woman to ever win a Fields Medal, the most prestigious honor in mathematics, died on Saturday. She was 40.
The cause was breast cancer, said Stanford University, where she was a professor. The university did not say where she died.
Maryam Mirzakhani was born on May 3, 1977, in Tehran. As a child, she read voraciously and wanted to become a writer. Iran was at war with Iraq at the time, but the war ended as she entered middle school.
“I think I was the lucky generation,” she said in the Fields video, “because I was a teenager when things became more stable.”
In high school, she was a member of the Iranian team at the International Mathematical Olympiad. She won a gold medal in the olympiad in 1994, and the next year won another gold medal, with a perfect score.
After completing a bachelor’s degree at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran in 1999, she attended graduate school at Harvard. She then became a professor at Princeton before moving to Stanford in 2008.
Even the president of Iran noted her passing.
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran released a statement expressing “great grief and sorrow.”
“The unparalleled excellence of the creative scientist and humble person that echoed Iran’s name in scientific circles around the world,’’ he wrote, “was a turning point in introducing Iranian women and youth on their way to conquer the summits of pride and various international stages.”
A way over simplification of her work but you'll see it's not your typical idea either.
Dr. Mirzakhani’s mathematics looked at the interplay of dynamics and geometry, in some ways a more complicated version of billiards with balls bouncing eternally from side to side.
Sometimes, the path can be a repeating pattern. A simple example is a ball that hits the side of a rectangular billiards table at a right angle. It would then bounce back and forth in a line forever, never moving to any other part of the table.
But if it bounced at an angle, the trajectory would be more intricate, and would often cover the entire table. “You want to see the trajectory of the ball,” she explained in a video produced by the Simons Foundation and the International Mathematical Union to profile the 2014 Fields winners. “Would it cover all your billiard table? Can you find closed billiards paths? And interestingly enough, this is an open question in general.”
Maryam Mirzakhani, Only Woman to Win a Fields Medal, Dies at 40 - The New York Times