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Mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani, First Woman to Win Fields Medal, Dies Age 40

16 July 2017

Here's a Harvard lecture by Mirzakahni in November of 2014, just nine months before she was awarded the Fields Medal.

"This is a great honor", she was quoted as saying in 2014. She became a professor at Stanford University in 2008.

Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman to receive the Fields Medal for mathematics, has died, according to the BBC.

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

Stanford University in California - where she had been a professor since 2008 - didn't indicate where she died.

Friend Firouz Naderi announced Mirzakhani's death on Saturday on Instagram and relatives subsequently confirmed her death to the Mehr agency in Iran. "Maryam was a brilliant mathematical theorist, and also a humble person who accepted honors only with the hope that it might encourage others to follow her path".

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As a professor and scholar, Mirzakhani's pictures helped her write stories with her math. Her young daughter described her mother at work as "painting". "Mirzakhani was the first Iranian woman elected to the National Academy of Sciences previous year, in recognition of her 'distinguished achievement in original research.' She was in good company: Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell were past honorees". "The novelty of her approach made it a real tour de force". The disease finally spread to her bone marrow, Iranian media said.

She graduated from Sharif University in Tehran in 1999 and earned a Ph.D.at Harvard University in 2004. The challenge began as a thought exercise among physicists a century ago and had yet to be solved. The paper, more than 200 pages long, has been hailed as "the beginning of a new era" in mathematics and "a titanic work".

She is survived by husband Jan Vondrák, a Czech theoretical computer scientist, and their daughter Anahita.

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

Editor's note: A high-res photo of Maryam Mirzakhani is available here.

Mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani, First Woman to Win Fields Medal, Dies Age 40