Mon, Jul 17, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Fields medalist Mirzakhani dies

AP, STANFORD, California

An undated handout photograph of mathematics professor Maryam Mirzakhani made available by Stanford University on Aug. 13, 2014, after it was announced she had won the Fields Medal.

Photo: EPA

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 40.

Mirzakhani, who battled breast cancer, died on Saturday in a hospital after the cancer spread to her bone marrow.

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 systems.

“Mirzakhani specialized in theoretical mathematics that read like a foreign language by those outside of mathematics: moduli spaces, Teichmuller theory, hyperbolic geometry, Ergodic theory and symplectic geometry,” according to the Stanford news 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.”

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

There has been an outpouring of grief from Iranians over her passing, not least because she represented a more globalized and positive image of the country than usually depicted.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday issued a statement praising Mirzakhani.

“The grievous passing of Maryam Mirzakhani, the eminent Iranian and world-renowned mathematician, is very much heartrending,” Rouhani said in a message, according to the Tehran Times.

“The news of young Iranian genius and math professor Maryam Mirzakhani’s passing has brought a deep pang of sorrow to me and all Iranians who are proud of their eminent and distinguished scientists,” Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarifposted in Farsi on his Instagram account.

Iranian media yesterday hailed Mirzakhani, with her image blazoned across newspaper front pages. In some cases newspapers even broke with tradition and portrayed her without her hair covered by a hijab — mandatory for women in public since the Islamic republic’s 1979 revolution.

Rouhani also posted a recent picture of Mirzakhani on Instagram without her head covered.

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 Vondrak, and daughter, Anahita.

Additional reporting by AFP

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