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Maryam Mirzakhani, first woman to win Fields Medal in mathematics, dies of cancer

The Iranian had breast cancer.

Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman to receive the prestigious Fields Medal for mathematics, died on Saturday after a four-year battle with cancer, reported The Wire. She was 40.

The cancer had spread to her bones, according to BBC. Mirzakhani, who was being treated in the United States, is survived by her husband Jan Vondrak, a theoretical computer scientist, and their daughter.

The Fields Medal is awarded every four years to between two and four mathematicians under 40. It has been nicknamed the “Nobel Prize for Mathematics”. The award was established in 1936. Mirzakhani, a national of Iran, had received her award in 2014 for her work on complex geometry and dynamical systems.

As a teenager, Mirzakhani won two gold medals in the International Mathematical Olympiad. She completed her Bachelor of Science in mathematics from Iran’s Sharif University of Technology in 1999. She earned a PhD at Harvard University in 2004, and later a professorship at Stanford University.

Mirzakhani often spoke about the lack of support for women in math. “The situation of women in math is far from ideal,” she told the American Mathematical Society in 2013. “The social barriers for girls who are interested in mathematical sciences might not be lower now than they were when I grew up. And balancing career and family remains a big challenge. It makes most women face difficult decisions which usually compromise their work. However, there has been a lot of progress over the years, and I am sure this trend will continue.”

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