Iranian Math Genius Mirzakhani Dies of Cancer

Iranian Math Genius Mirzakhani Dies of Cancer

Maryam Mirzakhani, the internationally-renowned Iranian mathematician and the first female winner of Fields Medal, has died of cancer according to one of her relatives.

Mirzakhani had been hospitalized in the US for deteriorating health conditions caused by cancer recurrence, but she succumbed to the disease on Saturday, one of her relatives told the Mehr News Agency.

Her medical tests showed that cancer had spread to her bone marrow a few weeks ago.

Maryam’s parents travelled to the US on Monday to join their daughter and her family and take care of them.

Mirzakhani had been diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago, a year before she set the record of the first ever woman to win the prestigious Fields Medal, also known as the Nobel Prize of mathematics.

The medical team had put the genius mathematician under intensive care to treat her third recurrence of cancer.

In reaction to her death, Iranian space scientist Firouz Naderi said in his Instagram page, “A light was turned off today. It breaks my heart… Gone far too soon.”

Firouz Naderi’s post in Instagram in reaction to Mirzakhani’s death

The 40-year-old mathematician, a professor at Stanford University, was the first Iranian woman elected to the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in May 2016, in recognition of her “distinguished and continuing achievement in original research.”

With past honorees, including renowned physicist Albert Einstein, and inventors Thomas Edison, and Alexander Graham Bell, being a member of the organization is considered to be as one of the highest achievements for scientists in the United States, according to Press TV.

Born in 1977 in Tehran, Mirzakhani was raised in the Iranian capital. As a brilliant teenager, she won gold medals in both the International Mathematical Olympiad (Hong Kong 1994), in which she scored 41 out of 42 points, and the International Mathematical Olympiad (Canada 1995) with a perfect score of 42 out of 42 points, ranking her first jointly with 14 other participants.

Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani (3rd girl from right) & other Iranian students take photo with former late president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani before departing for 1995 Math Olympiad in Canada

The math genius received her Bachelor of Science in mathematics from Iran’s prestigious Sharif University of Technology in 1999. She later went to the US to further her education, earning a PhD degree in mathematics from Harvard University in 2004.

She became full professor of mathematics at the age of 31 in 2008 at Stanford University where she is currently lecturing.

Mirzakhani received Blumenthal Award from the American Mathematical Society in 2009. She was also awarded the 2013 biennial Ruth Lyttle Satter Prize in Mathematics by the American Mathematical Society, and garnered the 2014 Clay Research Award from the Clay Mathematics Institute.

Iranian math genius Maryam Mirzakhani and her daughter Anahita

But the most important of all her awards was the 2014 Fields Medal that she won in recognition of her contributions to the understanding of the symmetry of curved surfaces. This medal, commonly viewed as the highest honor a mathematician can receive, is given every four years to mathematicians under the age of 40, by the International Congress of the International Mathematical Union (IMU).

Mirzakhani’s research interests mainly included Teichmüller theory and ergodic theory. About her mathematical approach to developing new proofs, she had said “it is 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.”

Mirzakhani was married to Jan Vondrák, a Czech theoretical computer scientist who works at IBM Almaden Research Center. They have a daughter named Anahita.

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