Saturday, April 20, 2024

‘A Jewel Named Maryam Mirzakhani’

Iran’s former education minister has referred to the late Iranian math genius, Maryam Mirzakhani, as a gem stone, saying it was too early for her to die.

Former Iranian Education Minister Mohammad-Ali Najafi has, in a short piece, praised Iranian mathematical genius Maryam Mirzakhani, who died of cancer on June 15, 2017.

Najafi’s remarks are particularly significant as he himself received his master of science degree in mathematics from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1976 but dropped out of PhD program in 1978 during the Iranian revolution to return to Iran. He also received in B.S. in math from Sharif University of Technology.

Najafi, who is also an advisor to President Hassan Rouhani, wrote the piece just two days before Mirzakhani, the first Iranian woman to win the prestigious Fields Medal, passed away.

What follows are excerpts of Najafi’s remarks published on Thursday in IRNA:

Maryam Mirzakhani, the holder of the Fields Medal, the most prestigious math award in the world, is a gem stone for all women in Iran and across the world, and a paragon of modesty and philanthropy coupled with scientific and mental capability. We should pray for her. […]

Back in 1994 when I was Education Minister, Maryam and another girl (Ms. Roya Beheshti) were the first high school third-graders to become members of the National Students’ Maths Olympiad Team and leave for international competitions before they started their pre-university studies.

Given that the two were too young and even hadn’t finished their third grade, we didn’t expect too much of them. But much to our surprise, both won the gold medal and their performance astonished all participants. Maryam stood first in the event.

It was then when Maryam was identified as a genius. The following year, she got the complete score and won the gold medal again, standing first among the participants. Maryam continued her higher education at the Mathematics College of the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran. Fortunately, I could see for myself her brilliant accomplishments and progress.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree, she went to Harvard University where she received her Ph.D. and graduated summa cum laude. Then she began work as a professor at prestigious Princeton University.

Her mental innovations and eye-catching creativity saw her win numerous scientific awards, and finally she won the Fields Medal, the most prestigious math award in the world which is somehow regarded as the Math Nobel Prize.

‘A Jewel Named Maryam Mirzakhani’
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

Maryam could be compared with the greatest mathematicians such as Amalie Emmy Noether, and her works will undoubtedly continue to be used by the world’s scientific math circles for many years.

But what has impressed me more than Maryam’s math genius over the past years are her moral values, especially her simplicity, scientific modesty and other good characteristics, which have made a perfect man of her in the true sense of the word.

Maryam loved Iran, and during the years when she was staying in the United States, she travelled to Iran for several times and shared her research findings with Iranian mathematicians.

It would be too sad if the mathematics world and Iranian scientific community lose the dear Maryam so soon. There are still many unknown mathematical concepts which might come to light thanks to her creativity. Maryam’s genius could pave the way for great advances in the field of mathematics for many years. So, I ask all fellow Iranians to pray for her.

Iran Launches ‘Simorgh’ Supercomputer, Will Build Another in Memory of Mirzakhani

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