|This 11" x 14" (27.9 cm x 35.6 cm) hand-printed linocut portrait shows the late, great, mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani, the only woman to ever win the Fields Medal, along with several of her diagrams and doodles she used to work out her mathematical ideas. The print is made in blues and reds on white Japanese kozo (or mulberry paper).|
Awarded every four years to 2 to 4 mathematicians under the age of 40, the Fields Medal, sometimes known as the mathematician's Nobel Prize, is one of the highest and most prestigious awards a mathematician can receive. It has been award 60 times since 1936; to 59 men and 1 woman, Iranian mathematics professor at Standford University Maryam Mirzakhani (12 May 1977 – 14 July 2017) who won in 2014. Mirzakhani's research included Teichmüller theory, hyperbolic geometry, ergodic theory, and symplectic geometry, and she the Fields award committee cited her work in "the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces".
Born in Tehran, her mathematical ability showed young. She attended the Tehran Farzanegan School, part of the National Organization for Development of Exceptional Talents (NODET). She won the gold medal for mathematics in the Iranian National Olympiad, in both of her final two years of high school, which allowed her to bypass the national college entrance exams. In 1994, Mirzakhani won the gold medal level in the International Mathematical Olympiad in Hong Kong, scoring 41 out of 42 points. Here too, she was both the first woman and first Iranian to do so. The following year she became the first Iranian student to achieve a perfect score and to win two gold medals in the International Mathematical Olympiad in Toronto. She and her friend Roya Beheshti Zavareh were the first women to compete and won gold and silver, respectively, in the Iranian National Mathematical Olympiad. The two attended a conference for gifted students and former Olympiad competitors in Ahvaz in March 1988, and were riding the bus back to Tehran which was involved in an accident, and fell off a cliff, killing seven passengers. They were some of the few survivors of this nation tragedy. Years later, the pair went on to collaborate on the text 'Elementary Number Theory, Challenging Problems' which was published in 1999.
She earned her Bachelor of Science in mathematics from Sharif University of Technology in 1999, and in the process received recognition from the American Mathematical Society for her work in developing a simple proof for a theorem of Schur. She went on to earn a PhD in 2004 from Harvard University, where she worked under the supervision of the Fields Medalist Curtis T. McMullen. She became a research fellow of the Clay Mathematics Institute and a professor at Princeton University before being hired as a professor at Standford in 2009.
In 2008, Mirzakhani married Jan Vondrák, a Czech theoretical computer scientist and applied mathematician who currently is an associate professor at Stanford University. Together they had a daughter named Anahita, who described her mother's work as "painting" because of her habit of solving problems by doodling shapes, diagrams and formulae all over huge sheets of paper. A self-described "slow" mathematician, Mirzahani said "you have to spend some energy and effort to see the beauty of math." My portrait incorporates images based on her doodles, as well as some diagrams from published papers to illustrate both her creative mental world and her contributions to mathematics.
On 14 July 2017, Mirzakhani died of breast cancer at the age of 40. Upon her death, several Iranian newspapers broke taboo and published photographs of Mirzakhani with her hair uncovered, drawing international attention. The International Council for Science has agreed to declare Maryam Mirzakhani's birthday, 12 May, as International Women in Mathematics Day in her memory.
Maryam Mirzakhani, Wikipedia, accessed October 2019
Fields Medal, Wikipedia, accessed October 2019
Krishnadev Calamur, Math's Highest Honor Is Given To A Woman For The First Time, NPR, August 2014
Elizabeth Manus, Maryam Mirzakhani, Fields Winner, Doodler
The Beautiful Mathematical Explorations of Maryam Mirzakhani, Quanta Magazine, July 2017
Mirzakhani, Maryam. “Simple geodesics and Weil-Petersson volumes of moduli spaces of bordered Riemann surfaces.” Inventiones mathematicae 167 (2006): 179-222. DOI:10.1007/s00222-006-0013-2
Mirzakhani, Maryam. “Ergodic Theory of the Earthquake Flow.” (2010). DOI:10.1093/imrn/rnm116
|Ada, Countess Lovelace, 3rd edition linocut by Ele Willoughby|