Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian mathematician who’s described by her peers as “technically superb and boldly ambitious,” has won an award that’s known as the Nobel Prize for mathematics.
Mirzhakhani, 37, was among a number of women tipped for the prize in recent years and her success won immediate praise from fellow mathematicians.
Christiane Rousseau, vice president of the International Mathematics Union, said: “It’s an extraordinary moment. Marie-Curie had Nobel prizes in physics and chemistry at the beginning of the 20th century, but in mathematics this is the first time we have a woman winning the most prestigious prize there is. This is a celebration for women.”
“I am thrilled that this day has finally come,” said Sir Tim Gowers, a Fields medallist and mathematician at Cambridge University. “Although women have contributed to mathematics at the highest level for a long time, this fact has not been visible to the general public. I hope that the existence of a female Fields medallist, who will surely be the first of many, will put to bed many myths about women and mathematics, and encourage more young women to think of mathematical research as a possible career.”
Born and raised in Iran, Mirzakhani completed a PhD at Harvard in 2004. Her path into mathematics was not a given, though. As a child, her passion was not for numbers, but literature. Her school in Tehran was near a street full of bookshops and because browsing was not allowed, she ended up buying a lot of random books. “I dreamed of becoming a writer,” she said in an interview for the Clay Mathematics Institute (CMI) in 2008. “I never thought I would pursue mathematics before my last year in high school.”
—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata