Friday, 15 August 2014 | MYT 8:03 PM

Iranian becomes first woman to win top maths prize

Maryam Mirzakhani wins the Fields Medal, becoming the first woman to be awarded the highest honour in mathematics.

The professor at Stanford University in California was among four recipients honoured with the Fields Medal – mathematics’ equivalent to the Nobel Prize – at the International Congress of Mathematicians held in Seoul, South Korea, and the first female among the 56 winners since the prize was established in 1936.

“This is a great honour. I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians,” Mirzakhani was quoted as saying on Stanford’s website. “I am sure there will be many more women winning this kind of award in coming years.”

Mirzakhani, 37, was born in Tehran, Iran, and lived there until she began her doctorate work at Harvard University. She said she had dreamed of becoming a writer when she was young, but chose instead to pursue her enthusiasm for solving mathematical problems.

Maryam Mirzakhani, one of four recipient of the Fields Medal awarded in 2014, is the first woman to ever receive the prize since it was first conferred in 1936. 

“It is fun – like solving a puzzle or connecting the dots in a detective case. I felt that this was something I could do, and I wanted to pursue this path,” said Mirzakhani, who was recognised for her work in understanding the symmetry of curved surfaces.

The medal – awarded every four years – were presented to the four recipients at the international congress on Aug 13 by South Korean President Park Geun-hye – who incidentally is the first woman to hold that post.

The other three Fields Medal winners on Wednesday were Artur Avila of the National Centre for Scientific Research in France and Brazil’s National Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics; Manjul Bhargava of Princeton University; and Martin Hairer of the University of Warwick in the UK. – Reuters

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