Math genius Mirzakhani fighting cancer: Pray for her

July 14, 2017

TEHRAN — Maryam Mirzakhani, the Iranian genius mathematician and the first-ever female winner of the prestigious Fields Medal prize, is battling cancer at a hospital in the U.S..

Mirzakhani who had been diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago is now hospitalized for the recurrence of cancer as the disease has spread to her bone marrow. 

“Mirzakhani is a jewel for all Iranian women and for all women worldwide. She is a role model for being humble and humane as well as her intellectual and academic abilities,” Mohammad-Ali Najafi, a former education minister and the current advisor to President Hassan Rouhani wrote in a letter published by IRNA on Thursday. 

“In 1994, when I was in charge of the ministry of education, to our surprise Maryam beat our expectations, winning a gold medal in the International Mathematical Olympiad as the first female Iranian student to do so,” Najafi said.

In the 1995 International Mathematical Olympiad, she became the first Iranian student to achieve a perfect score and to win two gold medals, he added.

In the world of mathematics Maryam can be compared to Emmy Noether [German mathematician known for her landmark contributions to abstract algebra and theoretical physics] and her achievements in the field would be certainly used and discussed in world academic circles for years, the former minister said.

“But what has impressed me even more than her genius are her virtues which made her a complete human being; over the years she has travelled to Iran for several times to share her research results with Iranian mathematicians, she loves her country,” he highlighted.

Najafi concluded his letter saying “losing dear Maryam at such young age would bring an immense sorrow to the world of mathematics and the Iranian scientific community as she can still make invaluable contribution in recognition and understanding of mathematical sciences. So I ask all Iranians to pray for her to restore her health once again.”

Maryam Mirzakhani received her Bachelor of Science in mathematics from Iran’s Sharif University of Technology in 1999 and earned a PhD degree in mathematics from Harvard University in 2004.

From 2004 to 2008 she was a Clay Mathematics Institute Research Fellow and an assistant professor at Princeton University. She is currently a professor at Stanford University. Her honors include the 2009 Blumenthal Award for the Advancement of Research in Pure Mathematics and the 2013 Satter Prize of the American Mathematical Society.

Mirzakhani also became the first woman and the first Iranian to be awarded a Fields Medal. The citation for her award recognized “her outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces.”

“As a kid, I dreamt of becoming a writer. My most exciting pastime was reading novels; in fact, I would read anything I could find. I never thought I would pursue mathematics until my last year in high school,” she said in an interview published in The Guardian in August 2014. 

“[Math] is fun – it’s like solving a puzzle or connecting the dots in a detective case,” she explained to the Stanford Report after winning Fields Medal in 2014. “I felt that this was something I could do, and I wanted to pursue this path.”


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