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Nobel Maths Prize goes To Iranian Woman

Iranian woman wins maths’ top prize, the Fields medal

 

A woman has won the maths world’s “Nobel prize” for the first time. Maryam

 

Mirzakhani of Stanford University, California, will receive the Fields medal

 

tomorrow at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Seoul, South Korea.

 

The medal is awarded once every four years to at most four recipients, who must

 

be aged under 40 at the start of that year. All the previous 52 Fields medallists,

 

dating back to 1936, have been male.

 

Mirzakhani, who is Iranian, 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. Mirzakhani described the number of ways a beam

 

of light can travel a closed loop in a two-dimensional universe. To answer the

 

question, it turns out, you cannot just stay in your “home” universe – you have to

 

understand how to navigate the entire multiverse. Mirzakhani has shown

 

mathematicians new ways to navigate these spaces.

 

Mirzakhani first attracted international attention as a high-school student in 1995,

 

when she was the first Iranian student to achieve a perfect score in the

 

International Mathematics Olympiad.

 

“She is very, very well known in Iran, where she is held out as an example for

 

younger students,” says Ingrid Daubechies, the president of the International

 

 

Mathematical Union, which selects the Fields medallists.

 

 

“Speaking as a woman myself, it is a wonderful thing to see her win,” Daubechies

 

adds. “It will lay to rest the often-quoted fact that a woman has never won.” In

 

future, she says, the idea of a woman winning the top maths award will no longer

 

seem exceptional.

 

The three other winners are Brazilian-born Artur Avila of Denis Diderot University

 

in Paris, France, who studies how chaotic systems evolve when constrained by

 

certain rules; Manjul Bhargava, a number theorist at Princeton University; and

 

Martin Hairer, an expert in partial differential equations at the University of

 

Warwick, UK

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