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Died at 40, The First Woman to Win Highest Maths Award

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Maryam Mirzakhani was the first and only woman to get the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for mathematics. She died on Saturday at age 40 after a battle with cancer, said officials at Stanford University.

The death of Mirzakhani, who specialized in theoretical mathematics, came three years after she received the Fields Medal at an event in Seoul.

China’s Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo died at the age of 61. The prize is given to honor mathematicians under 40 who make major contributions after every four years.

Mirzakhani Was Awarded in 2014

In 2014, Mirzakhani was 37 and she became the first woman to win the prize. The prize was established in 1936 and is equivalent to the Nobel Prize for mathematics.

Stanford officials said in 2014, the mathematician received the medal for her work in understanding the symmetry of curved surfaces.

Mirzakhani at the time said that before taking an interest in mathematical problems, she had dreamed of becoming a writer when she was young. She said in 2014, “It is fun; it’s like solving a puzzle or connecting the dots in a detective case,”

Born and grew up in Iran, she attended an all-girls high school and gained recognition as a teenager in the 1994 and 1995 competitions of the International Mathematical Olympiad.

She later graduated from Sharif University in Tehran. After that she headed to Harvard University in Massachusetts, to obtain her doctorate in mathematics.

Mirzakhani Joined Standfort Faculty in 2008

In 2008, Mirzakhani joined the faculty at Stanford in the San Francisco Bay area. In recent years, she worked with Alex Eskin at the University of Chicago. She worked to investigate the trajectory of a billiard ball as it bounces around a polygonal table.

The complexities in the ball’s movement have long bedeviled physicists. Mirzakhani, while solving mathematical problems, often drew on large sheets of paper while scribbling formulas on the edges. According to Stanford, This is an approach that her young daughter believed to be a form of painting.

Mirzakhani is survived by her husband, Jan Vondrák, and a daughter, Anahita. He did not have any information on where Mirzakhani died, A Stanford spokesperson said.

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