Maryam Mirzakhani, a world-renowned mathematician and Stanford University professor known for being the first woman to receive the prestigious Fields Medal for mathematics, has died, the university announced early Saturday.
Mirzakhani was hospitalized last week in California and tests showed that cancer had spread to her bone marrow.
The award recognized her sophisticated and highly original contributions to the fields of geometry and dynamical systems, particularly in understanding the symmetry of curved surfaces such as spheres. "But for myself, I prefer solo activities; I enjoy reading and exercising in my free time", she said.
Professor Maryam Mirzakhani is the recipient of the 2014 Fields Medal, the top honor in mathematics.
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Born in 1977, Mirzakhani was raised in post-revolutionary Iran and won two gold medals in the International Mathematical Olympiad as a teenager, according to the BBC.
Her educational qualifications boasted of a PhD at the Harvard University in 2004, and later a professorship at Stanford.
Mirzakhani joined the faculty of Stanford University in 2008, where she served as a professor of mathematics until her death.
Some social media users criticised Iranian officials for not using recent images of Prof Mirzakhani which showed her uncovered hair. "It breaks my heart. gone far too soon", her friend, NASA scientist Firouz Naderi, posted on Instagram. She was the first woman to win the award since its inception in 1936. The award is only given out every four years to between two and four mathematicians under 40.
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In another interview, she said of her process: "I don't have any particular recipe [for developing new proofs] ..."
She won the prize for a 172-page paper on the trajectory of a billiards ball around a polygonal table that has been hailed as a "titanic work" and the "beginning of a new era" in mathematics. Her questions came in English.
"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". In a way, she told Quanta, working on mathematics is a lot like writing a novel. "Things evolve, and then you look back at a character, and it's completely different from your first impression".
The president further expressed condolences to the country's scientific community and the bereaved family of Mirzakhani over her death.
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But he said he wasn't optimistic that the ruling Chinese Communist Party would allow Liu Xia to take up Germany's invitation. He said the Chinese government must give Liu's remains to his family and grant his wife an exit visa to leave the country.