Maryam Mirzakhani, who passed away recently at the age of 40, was a Stanford mathematician who grew up in Iran and came to the United States for graduate work at Harvard.
Her work on complex curved surfaces was deeply theoretical, boldly original and of untold future importance. Her doctoral dissertation in 2004 solved two long-standing problems. In 2014, Mirzakhani won the Fields Medal in mathematics, the first woman to do so since its inception in 1936.
Her work was creative and daring. She often sketched proofs on large sheets of paper; her daughter called it “painting.” The mathematician herself said that solving proofs was like finding pathways through the jungle, a challenge that gave her joy.
“She has a fearless ambition when it comes to mathematics,” said her Harvard mentor, Curtis McMullen, a Fields Medal winner himself.
— Adapted from “First woman to win famed Fields Medal in mathematics,” Matt Schudel, The Washington Post.