Maryam Mirzakhani is the First Woman to Win the World’s Top Math Award

by Emily Robinson

In more glass ceiling-breaking news, the Fields Award (which Buzzfeed describes as “the Nobel Prize equivalent in the mathematics world”) has been awarded to the first female ever! 

Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian-born professor at Stanford University, was chosen by the International Congress of Mathematicians to receive this honor – which only happens every four years. 

According to New Scientist, the winner “studies the geometry of moduli space, a complex geometric and algebraic entity that might be described as a universe in which every point is itself a universe,” and that “Mirzakhani has shown mathematicians new ways to navigate these spaces.” 


As Negar Mortazavi points out on Twitter, Mirzakhani totally subverts the expectation for this recipient to be an old white dude. She’s a 37-year-old woman of color, born and raised in Tehran. It was there that she achieved a perfect score in the International Mathematics Olympiad – becoming the first Iranian high school student to do so. 

New Scientist also notes that she is very well known in Iran because of this achievement and is the model for many students across the country. Which is super cool, considering she may be someone’s hero instead of, say, a football player or pop singer (hey American kids, take notes!). 

If this is what the math world has to offer, then I’m definitely looking forward to the glass ceilings that ladies like her are going to break next! 


Photos via New Scientist (via Maryam Mirzakhani) and @NegarMortazavi

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