Iran-Origin Maths Wizard Maryam Dies at 40

Iranian Math Genius Mirzakhani Dies of Cancer

Her friend Firouz Michael Naderi, an Iranian-American NASA scientist, said on Instagram, "A light was turned off today".

"A genius? Yes. But also a daughter, a mother and a wife", he added in a subsequent post.

Mirzakhani, 40, fought with cancer for four years and was hospitalized lately as the cancer has spread to her bone marrow.

Born in Tehran in 1977, Maryam was twice awarded the International Mathematical Olympiad's gold medal in her youth.

At the time of her death, she was a professor in the mathematics department at Stanford University. "I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians", she said at the time.

The quadrennial Fields Medal, which Mirzakhani won in 2014, is the most prestigious award in mathematics, often equated in stature with the Nobel Prize.

Mirzakhani, who described herself as a slow mathematician, was drawn to big, hard questions in her field, a trait that made her a revered figure within the mathematics community.

In another interview, she said of her process: "I don't have any particular recipe [for developing new proofs] ..."

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

"In short, Mirzakhani was fascinated by the geometric and dynamic complexities of curved surfaces - spheres, doughnut shapes and even amoebas", Stanford said in a news release.

She received her bachelor's degree from Iran's Sharif University of Technology in 1999 and earned a PhD degree in mathematics from Harvard University in 2004.

Mirzakhani attended an all-girls high school in Tehran and grew up during the Iran-Iraq war.

"I find it fascinating that you can look at the same problem from different perspectives and approach it using different methods", she said. But her passion and gift for mathematics eventually won out.

Mirzakhani joined the faculty at Stanford in the San Francisco Bay area in 2008.

In 2014, she told Quanta Magazine, a science publication, that she thought about mathematics in pictures, doodling her ideas on giant sheets of paper scattered across her office.

Mirzakhani is survived by her husband, an associate professor at Stanford University, and daughter Anahita.

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