Born in Tehran in 1977, Mirzakhani was an early high achiever and won a gold medal in the 1994 Iranian Math Olympiad-- the first year women were allowed to compete. She then won a second gold medal the next year. After studying at Sharif University of Technology, she attended Harvard for her Ph.D and wrote a thesis so exceptional it was published in three prestigious journals. In 2009 Mirzakhani became a Professor of mathematics at Stanford.
In 2014, Maryam Mirzakhani became the first (and so far only) woman and the first Iranian person to receive the Fields Medal for her work in advanced mathematics. The Fields medal is the most prestigious medal in the field of mathematics.
Professor Nalini Joshi describes Mirzakhani’s work like this: “Maryam's best results were breathtaking because they transcended the conventional boundaries of mathematics and provided unexpected insights into other areas.” Mirzakhani studied geodesics, specifically the geometry of curved surfaces. Proving Professor Joshi’s point, one of the most stunning results of her work was a proof of Witten’s Conjecture... in the field of string theory.
Mirzakhani died of breast cancer in 2017. In her 40 years, she reshaped the field of mathematics and leaves an incredible legacy.
Further Reading at USC:
Busemann, Herbert: The Geometry of Geodesics
Joshi, Nalini: Maryam mirzakhani: Remembering a Brilliant Mathematician who Inspired a World of Possibilities: Australian Mathematician Nalini Joshi Pays a Personal Tribute to the Life and Legacy of Maryam Mirzakhani, the First Female Winner of the Fields Medal, Who Died in 2017
Mirzakhani, Maryam: Growth of the Number of Simple Closed Geodesics on Hyperbolic Surfaces
Portraits, & Mariana Cook: Mathematicians: An Outer View of the Inner World
Posamentier, Alfred and Spreitzer, Christian: Math Makers : the Lives and Works of 50 Famous Mathematicians
Wright, Alex: Maryam Mirzakhani (1977-2017)
Nalini Joshi for Ockham's Razor. (2018, Jan 06). Maryam mirzakhani: Remembering a brilliant mathematician who inspired a world of possibilities: Australian mathematician nalini joshi pays a personal tribute to the life and legacy of maryam mirzakhani, the first female winner of the fields medal, who died in 2017. ABC Premium News.
Wright, A. (2017). Maryam Mirzakhani (1977-2017). Science (American Association for the Advancement of Science), 357(6353), 758–758.