NCRI - Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian mathematician who was the only woman ever to win a Fields Medal, the most significant honor in mathematics, died on Saturday. She was 40.

The cause was cancer, said Stanford University, where she was a professor. The university did not say where she died.

Her death is “a big loss and shock to the mathematical community worldwide,” said Peter C. Sarnak, a mathematician at Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study.

The Fields Medal, established in 1936, is often described as the Prize of mathematics. But unlike the Nobels, the Fields are bestowed only on people aged 40 or younger, not just to honor their accomplishments but also to predict future mathematical triumphs. The Fields are awarded every four years, with up to four mathematicians chosen at a time.

The Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran extends its condolences on the tragic demise of this great woman and genius mathematician to her family, to the women and people of Iran, the scientific community and the women of the world.

Maryam Mirzakhani was born in 1977 in Tehran, Iran. She went to Farzanegan (Exceptional Talents) high school in Tehran.

In 1994, she won a gold medal in the International Mathematical Olympiad, the first female Iranian student to do so. In the 1995 International Mathematical Olympiad, she became the first Iranian student to achieve a perfect score and to win two gold medals.

She obtained her BS in mathematics (1999) from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran. Then she went to the United States for graduate work, earning a PhD from Harvard University (2004), where she worked under the supervision of the Fields Medalist Curtis McMullen.

At Harvard University, she tackled a problem that had stymied many a mathematician: calculating the volumes of moduli spaces of curves-geometric objects whose points each represent a different hyperbolic surface.

The Popular Science journal picked Maryam Mirzakhani among the annual Brilliant Ten in 2005.

She was also a 2004 research fellow of the Clay Mathematics Institute and a professor at Princeton University.

Mirzakhani has made several contributions to the theory of moduli spaces of Riemann surfaces. Her subsequent work focused on Teichmüller dynamics of moduli space. In particular, she was able to prove the long-standing conjecture that William Thurston's earthquake flow on Teichmüller space is ergodic.

Mirzakhani was awarded the Fields Medal in 2014 for "her outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces". The award was made in Seoul at the International Congress of Mathematicians on 13 August.

She was married to Jan Vondrák, a Czech theoretical computer scientist and applied mathematician who is an associate professor at Stanford University. Her daughter, Anahita, is six years old.

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