Maryam Mirzakhani, prize-winning mathematician, dies at 40

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"What's so special about Maryam, the thing that really separates her, is the originality in how she puts together these disparate pieces", said Steven Kerckhoff, at the time of her Fields Medal award.

Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman to win what is viewed as the Nobel Prize for Mathematics, died on Saturday in USA, after battling with the fatal breast cancer for last four years.

Mirzakhani was born in Tehran, Iran on May 3, 1977, and she quickly displayed an wonderful talent for math.

"In short, Mirzakhani was fascinated by the geometric and dynamic complexities of curved surfaces - spheres, doughnut shapes and even amoebas. Gone far too soon", the Iranian NASA scientist, Firouz Naderi, wrote in his latest post on Instagram. "Also, everyone has a different style, and something that works for one person might not be so great for others", she said. Marie-Curie had Nobel prizes in physics and chemistry at the beginning of the 20th century, but in mathematics this is the first time we have a woman winning the most prestigious prize.

Mirzakhani completed her PhD at Harvard in 2004, then accepted positions as a research fellow at the Clay Mathematics Institute and an assistant professor at Princeton, accruing awards and acclaim along the way.

According to the awarding committee, Mirzakhani's genius came from her "rare combination of superb technical ability, bold ambition, far-reaching vision, and deep curiosity". The Fields Medal, which she won in 2014, is given out every four years, often to multiple winners aged 40 or younger.

Stanford University in California - where she had been a professor since 2008 - didn't indicate where she died. She said in interviews that she liked the interdisciplinary connections and implications of her work.

Mirzakhani, who joined Stanford in 2008, specialized in theoretical mathematics.

In 2014, she told Quanta Magazine, a science publication, that she thought about mathematics in pictures, doodling her ideas on giant sheets of paper scattered across her office.

She is survived by her husband and young daughter.

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