Maryam Myrzakhani, first woman to win the Fields Medal
For the first time since its establishment the Fields Medal was awarded to a woman.
In 2014, Maryam Myrzakhani, 37 years old, was the first woman and the first Iranian as well to be honoured with the prestigious prize, thanks to “her outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces” – in other words, very abstract sectors in pure mathematics.
The Fields Medal, also known as the “Nobel Prize of mathematics”, represents one of the most desired rewards by the mathematicians from all over the world and is assigned every four years by the International Mathematical Union (IMU), during the International Congress of Mathematicians.
It was designed as a price for young promising mathematicians, being addressed to scholars still not over 40, but it is considered, as a matter of fact, a real sanctification in this field.
For Maryam Myrzakhani this award comes as the crown jewel of a brilliant career.
Born and raised in Teheran, the future mathematician discovers her passion in high school, winning two gold medals in the International Mathematical Olympiads in 1994 and 1995, proving to be a rising star from the very beginning.
Obtained her BSc in mathematics in 1999 from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, as a 22-year-old woman, she decides to continue her studies abroad, first earning a PhD in Harvard, then working as a research fellow at the Clay Mathematics Institute in Massachusetts and as a professor in Princeton in New Jersey.
Among the other prizes she won, the AMS Ruth Lyttle Satter Prize in Mathematics in 2013 and the Clay Research Award 2014 are particularly worth mentioning.
Myrzakhani’s career demonstrates how creative talent, in science as well as in other fields of knowledge, knows no gender boundary. This woman, who emigrated at an early age in the USA, dismantles the stereotype of the Iranian woman particularly linked to her traditional role within the family.
Moreover, her success in making her way in the field of science and research is exemplar, considering that this field is dominated by the sexist concept according to which women are unable to achieve results equal to the ones of their male colleagues.
Myrzakhani is conscious of being a positive example. “It’s a great honour”, she affirmed, “and I hope that this might encourage young female scientists and mathematicians”. As she looks toward the future, she feels confident that “in the next few years many other women will win this kind of prizes”.