A mathematician, first woman and first Iranian to receive the Fields Medal in 2014.
Maryam Mirzakhani (Image: courtesy of Maryam Mirzakhani)
Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian mathematician and a professor of mathematics at Stanford University, is the first woman as well as the first Iranian to be awarded the Fields Medal in 2014, known as "Nobel Prize of mathematics", since the award was established in 1936. She was born, May 1977, and raised in Tehran, Iran.
As a child growing in Tehran, during Iran-Iraq war, she always wanted to become a writer. Mirzakhani finished her elementary education just as the Iran-Iraq war was ending and opportunities were opening up for motivated students. She took a placement test that secured her a spot at the Farzanegan (Bright Ones) middle school for girls in Tehran, which is administered by Iran's National Organization for Development of Exceptional Talents. There she made a lifelong friend, Roya Beheshti, who is now a mathematics professor at Washington University in St. Louis.
After finishing Farzanegan middle school, Mirzakhani and her friend, Beheshti, went on to the Farzanegan high school for girls. And in 1994 despite the fact that Iran's International Mathematical Olympiad team had never fielded a girl, Mirzakhani, when was 17, and Beheshti made to the Iranian math Olympiad team. Mirzakhani's score on the Olympiad test earned her a gold medal. The following year, she returned and achieved a perfect score. Here then Mirzakhani emerged with a deep love of mathematics.
After completing an undergraduate degree in mathematics at Sharif University in Tehran in 1999, Mirzakhani went to graduate school at Harvard University, where she worked under the guidance of Fields Medal recipient Curtis McMullen. She received her PhD from Harvard in 2004. Her research interests include Teichmüller theory, hyperbolic geometry, ergodic theory, and symplectic geometry.
For "her outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces" Mirzakhani received the Fields Medal in 2014 from the hands of South Korean President Park Geun-hye in Seoul.
Mirzakhani was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. She died on 15 July 2017 after battling the disease for four years. She was survived by her husband Jan Vondrák, a Czech theoretical computer scientist and applied mathematician and a daughter named Anahita.