Stanford professor Maryam Mirzakhani dies of cancer at age 40

Maryam Mirzakhani Passes Away

Stanford professor Maryam Mirzakhani, the first and only woman to win the prestigious Fields Medal prize for mathematics, died Saturday after four years with breast cancer, the university announced.

After graduating from Iran's Sharif University of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics in 1999, she continued her education in the USA, earning a PhD in mathematics from Harvard University in 2004.

Professor Maryam Mirzakhani, the recipient of the 2014 Fields Medal, the top honor in mathematics.

She had dreamed of becoming a writer when she was young, she said, but instead pursued her enthusiasm for solving mathematical problems.

Born on May 3, 1977, in Tehran, Mirzakhani showed her knack for numbers from an early age, winning back-to-back gold medals in the 1994 and 1995 International Mathematical Olympiads. "Mirzakhani was the first Iranian woman elected to the National Academy of Sciences previous year, in recognition of her 'distinguished achievement in original research.' She was in good company: Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell were past honorees". "It breaks my heart... gone far too soon." in an Instagram posting.

She said the 2014 award was a great honor. It is given every four years to mathematicians under the age of 40.

"At Harvard, Mirzakhani was distinguished by her determination and relentless questioning, despite the language barrier", according to a Stanford News Service release. Kerckhoff is a mathematics professor at Stanford and was one of Mirzakhani's collaborators.

"A genius? Yes. But also a daughter, a mother and a wife", Naderi also wrote.

Mirzakhani is survived by her husband and daughter.

Stanford said her work involved the geometric and dynamic complexities of curved surfaces such as spheres and doughnut shapes. Mirzakhani received the medal in 2014 for her work on complex geometry and dynamical systems.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani saluted Mirzakhani in a message in Farsi, posted to Twitter.