Maryam Mirzakhani, the First Female Winner of the Fields Medal, Dies at 40

Image: Professor Maryam Mirzakhani
Professor Maryam Mirzakhani is the recipient of the 2014 Fields Medal, the top honor in mathematics. She is the first woman in the prize's 80-year history to earn the distinction. The Fields Medal is awarded every four years on the occasion of the International Congress of Mathematicians to recognize outstanding mathematical achievement for existing work and for the promise of future achievement.Courtesy Maryam Mirzakhani / Corbis via Getty Images

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By Chelsea Bailey and Associated Press

Maryam Mirzakhani, a Stanford University professor who was the first and only woman to win the Fields Medal in mathematics, has died. She was 40.

Stanford University said Mirzakhani died Saturday after a long battle with breast cancer.

Professor Maryam Mirzakhani was the recipient of the 2014 Fields Medal, the top honor in mathematics.Courtesy Maryam Mirzakhani / Corbis via Getty Images

"Maryam is gone far too soon, but her impact will live on for the thousand of women she inspired to pursue math and science," said Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne in a press release.

"Her contributions as both a scholar and a role model are significant and enduring, and she will be dearly missed here at Stanford and around the world."

Related: Mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani Becomes First Woman to Win Fields Medal

Mirzakhani was born in Iran and joined Stanford as a mathematics professor in 2008.

In 2014, she won one of the Fields Medal — widely considered to be the mathematics equivalent of the Nobel Prize — for her groundbreaking work in theoretical mathematics. According to the university, Mirzakhani's research could have impacts on the "theoretical physics of how the universe came to exist" and "implications for the study of prime numbers and cryptography."

The university praised Mirzakhani and several of her colleagues described her as "ambitious, resolute and fearless in the face of problems others would not, or could not, tackle."

Mirzakhani is survived by her husband and a daughter.

Chelsea Bailey contributed from New York.