Maryam Mirzakhani, first woman to win Fields Medal, dies aged 40

She was also the first Iranian to win the prize.

"This isn't the kind of thing you do to win at pool, but it's the kind of thing you do to win a Fields Medal", University of Wisconsin professor Jordan Ellenberg wrote in a Slate article in 2014.

In 2014, Mirzakhani was awarded the coveted Fields Medal, also known as the Nobel Prize of mathematics.

She fought with cancer for four years and was hospitalized lately at a hospital in the the cancer had spread to her bone marrow.

Her death was confirmed Saturday by Stanford University, where Mirzakhani had been a professor since 2008. "It breaks my heart. gone far too soon", her friend, NASA scientist Firouz Naderi, posted on Instagram.

In a tweet, Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator for the Islamic Republic of Iran, also expressed his sorrow over Mirzakhani's death.

A year later, she became the first Iranian student to achieve a ideal score and win two gold medals at the Olympiad.

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According to the awarding committee, Mirzakhani's genius came from her "rare combination of superb technical ability, bold ambition, far-reaching vision, and deep curiosity". "That was the case starting with her thesis work, which generated several papers in all the top journals". "Sad to learn about the passing of #MaryamMirzakhani - the intelligent #Iranian daughter, wife, mother, professor. The novelty of her approach made it a real tour de force".

In recent years, she collaborated with Alex Eskin at the University of Chicago to take on another of the most-vexing problems in the field: the trajectory of a billiards ball around a polygonal table.

She earned her doctorate at Harvard University and taught at Stanford University.

The resulting paper, now more than 200 pages in length, was published in 2013.

"You're torturing yourself along the way", she would offer, "but life isn't supposed to be easy".

Professor Mirzakhani and her husband, Czech scientist Jan Vondrak, had one daughter.

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

  • Regina Walsh