Inspiring Thursday: Maryam Mirzakhani
Her favourite movie, Dougville, is a rough look at America during the Great Depression. “When I was a kid, my dream was to become a writer, I spent my most exciting moments reading novels, reading virtually anything I could get my hands on”, she said.
Born in Iran in 1977 and died in the United States in 2017, Maryam Mirzakhani was an Iranian mathematician and professor at Stanford University. Mirzakhani won the Fields Medal in 2014 for her work on “Dynamics and Geometry of Riemannian Surfaces and their Dimensional Spaces”, the highest award in mathematics. She is the only woman and the first Iranian to win the Fields Medal. The news of her death was sad not only for Iranians but also for the scientific community. However, what happened in her life makes her efforts to succeed in a world of numbers and formulas fascinating. Maryam Mirzakhani studied during her studies at Farzanegan High School in Tehran (Special School for Scientific Talents), which requires passing a multi-stage entrance exam, won the gold medal at the 1994 World Mathematical Olympiad in Hong Kong and in 1995 in Canada. After entering Sharif University of Technology, which has the highest rank in industrial and technical universities in Iran, she finished her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and then her master and doctorate from Harvard University in 2004. Maryam Mirzakhani was named one of the Top 10 Young Minds of 2005 by Popular Science in the United States. Mirzakhani won awards such as the American Mathematical Society Award in 2013 and the General Prize. She was a professor and researcher in mathematics at Stanford University in early September 2008. Mirzakhani won the Blumenthal Prize in 2009 for her achievements in mathematics. In a statement issued by the American Mathematical Society on the occasion of Mirzakhani winning the award, the reason for receiving this important mathematical award was “exceptional creativity, and an innovative doctorate in which various tools from hyperbolic geometry to classical methods of automorphic forms and “Simplistic reduction is combined to achieve results in three important problems.”
Maryam Mirzakhani’s birthday was registered on May 12 by the International Union of World Mathematical Associations at the suggestion of the Women’s Committee of the Iranian Mathematical Association as International Women’s Day in Mathematics. However, beside all these achievements, she had bitter experience of bus accident, a strange accident of the bus, carrying math students from Sharif University of Technology to participate in math competitions in southern Iran. She was in that accident and she was among only survivors. Maryam Mirzakhani, however, eventually died of breast cancer in the United States. The grief over her death among the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran with the strict gender laws in Iran and the silence about the scientific and sports achievements of women, caused a great reaction as to why no news of her success was published while she was alive.
However, the public grief over her death broke this taboo on the national radio and television of the Islamic Republic of Iran in broadcasting news related to women, and for the first time after the revolution, a name of one of streets in Tehran was adorned with honours of Iranian women.
Written by WAVE intern Homa Bazafkan