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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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