Mirza­khami won pres­ti­gious math prize

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST -

Maryam STAN­FORD, Mirza­khani, a Stan­ford Univer­sity pro­fes­sor who was the first and only woman to win the pres­ti­gious Fields Medal in math­e­mat­ics, has died. She was 40.

Mirza­khani, who bat­tled breast can­cer, died on Satur­day, the univer­sity an­nounced. It did not in­di­cate where she died.

In 2014 Mirza­khani was one of four win­ners of the Fields Medal, which is pre­sented ev­ery four years and is con­sid­ered the math­e­mat­ics equiv­a­lent of the No­bel Prize. She was named for her work on com­plex ge­om­e­try and dy­namic sys­tems.

“Mirza­khani spe­cial­ized in the­o­ret­i­cal math­e­mat­ics that read like a for­eign lan­guage by those out­side of math­e­mat­ics: mod­uli spa­ces, Te­ich­müller the­ory, hy­per­bolic ge­om­e­try, Er­godic the­ory and sym­plec­tic ge­om­e­try,” ac­cord­ing to the Stan­ford press an­nounce­ment.

“Mas­ter­ing these ap­proaches al­lowed Mirza­khani to pur­sue her fas­ci­na­tion for de­scrib­ing the geo­met­ric and dy­namic com­plex­i­ties of curved sur­faces-spheres, dough­nut shapes and even amoe­bas — in as great de­tail as pos­si­ble.”

The work had im­pli­ca­tions in fields rang­ing from cryp­tog­ra­phy to “the the­o­ret­i­cal physics of how the uni­verse came to ex­ist,” the univer­sity said.

Mirza­khani was born in Tehran, Iran, and stud­ied there and at Har­vard Univer­sity. She joined Stan­ford as a math­e­mat­ics pro­fes­sor in 2008.

Iran’s for­eign min­is­ter, Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif, said her death pained all Ira­ni­ans, the Tehran Times re­ported.

“The news of young Ira­nian ge­nius and math pro­fes­sor Maryam Mirza­khani’s pass­ing has brought a deep pang of sor­row to me and all Ira­ni­ans who are proud of their em­i­nent and dis­tin­guished sci­en­tists,” Zarif posted in Farsi on his In­sta­gram ac­count. “I do of­fer my heart­felt con­do­lences upon the pass­ing of this lady sci­en­tist to all Ira­ni­ans world­wide, her griev­ing fam­ily and the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity.”

Mirza­khani orig­i­nally dreamed of be­com­ing a writer but then shifted to math­e­mat­ics.

When she was work­ing, Mirza­khani would doo­dle on sheets of paper and scrib­ble for­mu­las on the edges of her draw­ings, lead­ing her daugh­ter to de­scribe the work as paint­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Stan­ford state­ment.

Mirza­khani once de­scribed her work as “like be­ing lost in a jun­gle and try­ing to use all the knowl­edge that you can gather to come up with some new tricks, and with some luck you might find a way out.”

Stan­ford Pres­i­dent Marc Tessier-lav­i­gne called Mirza­khani a bril­liant the­o­rist who made en­dur­ing con­tri­bu­tions and in­spired thou­sands of women to pur­sue math and sci­ence.

Mirza­khani is sur­vived by her hus­band, Jan Von­drák, and daugh­ter, Anahita.

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