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Maryam Mirzakhani, a Flame of Light that Went Out

The intensity of her mind couldn't be a shield from death.

In a field that is full of geometric and dynamic complexities of curved surfaces – spheres, doughnut shapes and even amoebas, Maryam Mirzakhani proved her intelligence and ambition. Professor Maryam, the first and to-date only female winner of the Fields Medal since its inception in 1936, died Friday, July 14, after a long battle with cancer. Mirzakhani was 40 years old. She had been battling breast cancer since 2013.

Maryam Mirzakhani
The Mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani

Stanford’s President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said,

“Maryam is gone far too soon, but her impact will live on for the thousands of women she inspired to pursue math and science.”

Maryam’s achievements and impact will stay alive to give hope and encourage others to follow her path. Her fearless ambition enabled her to face problems others would not, or could not, tackle.

Mirzakhani was born in Tehran, Iran. She graduated from Iran’s top scientific university, Sharif University in 1999 and traveled to the US to undertake postgraduate study, gaining her Ph.D. in 2004 from Harvard University. Her journey was based on a strong vision for future work in her area of math.

Behind her kindness, one could perceive a steely tenacity and a deep well of ideas and, of course, a passion for math and an incessant quest for the fantastic “aha” moment, as her colleagues described her.  Mirzakhani has already made an impact in her field. Her career has proved to be an equally incredible journey. According to Stanford University, She worked at where she specialized in the geometry and dynamics of complex curved surfaces. She was a professor since 2008 and worked on moduli spaces, Teichmüller theory, hyperbolic geometry, Ergodic theory and symplectic geometry.

“You have to spend some energy and effort to see the beauty of math.”  Maryam Mirzakhani

 

Her achievements and accomplishments were empowered by her passion for mathematics and her sharp intelligence. She wanted to know what was next, where the field was going. Her incisive questions shaped the field as well and will continue to shape it. Mirzakhani was not the first outstanding woman mathematician. However, she was the first, and so far only, one to be recognized with the Fields. This award, unlike the annual Nobel, is awarded only once every four years and only to mathematicians 40 years old or younger. Up to four mathematicians receive the prize in any award year.

Maryam Mirzakhani
Maryam Mirzakhani’s Fields Medal

As a child, she loved to read and make up stories and thought she might be a writer. But despite some discouraging classes in middle school, she eventually discovered a passion for mathematics and proved brilliant at it.

Maryam Mirzakhani, a true example of a dedicated, intelligent, and a fearless female. Indeed, she’ll stay alive within her accomplishments.

 

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