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First -- And Only -- Woman to Win the “Nobel Prize for Mathematics” Dies of Breast Cancer

In 2014 Maryam Mirzakhani from Iran became the very first woman, and very first Iranian, to receive the coveted Fields Medal, also known as the “Nobel Prize for Mathematics.” She earned the prestigious award for her work on dynamical systems and complex geometry. After a four-year battle with breast cancer, Mirzakhani died July 15 at the age of 40.

Legacy of honors and awards

Mirzakhani leaves behind a legacy of honors, including becoming the first woman named on Iran’s team in the International Mathematical Olympiad and gold medals in the 1990s, according to NPR. The Fields Medal, awarded only once every four years, was the icing on the cake for Mirzakhani. She became the first woman and first Iranian to receive the honor since its creation in 1936, earning her the distinction of being the first woman in the prize’s 80-year history.

The native of Tehran attended graduate school at Harvard. She served as a professor of mathematics at Stanford University from 2008 until her death. Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne commented, “Maryam is gone far too soon, but her impact will live on for the thousands of women she inspired to pursue math and science.”

Inspiration for other women

What Mirzakhani accomplished was pure genious, although she thought it was fun "like solving a puzzle or connecting the dots in a detective case.” She is truly an inspiration to other women, serving as a role model and demonstrating that women can also be successful in fields such as mathematics and science. She will be sadly missed by not only her associates at Stanford, but also her friends and family which includes her husband, Jan Vondrák, who is also a mathematics professor at Stanford, and a daughter, Anahita.