First woman to win highest math award dies at 40

Maryam Mirzakhani dead: Iranian math genius and first female Fields Medal winner loses cancer battle

"Breaks my heart", former NASA scientist Firouz Naderi said in a tweet.

The two times gold medal victor in the International Mathematical Olympiad received her Bachelor of Science in mathematics from Iran's Sharif University of Technology in 1999 and earned a PhD degree in mathematics from Harvard University in 2004.

Mirzakhani is survived by her husband Jan Vondrák, a Czechtheoretical computer scientist and applied mathematician who is an associate professor at Stanford University, and a daughter named Anahita. In 2008, at 31, she became a professor at Stanford.

"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.

The Fields Medal, often described as the mathematician's Nobel Prize, is given every four years to no more than four mathematicians, all of whom are 40 or younger.

Mirzakhani said mathematics made her feel like a detective.

Stanford says her work involved the geometric and dynamic complexities of curved surfaces such as spheres and doughnut shapes.

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"I find it fascinating that you can look at the same problem from different perspectives and approach it using different methods", she said.

She won the prize for a 172-page paper on the trajectory of a billiards ball around a polygonal table that has been hailed as a "titanic work" and the "beginning of a new era" in mathematics.

She received her BSc in mathematics in 1999 from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran and then went on to earn a PhD from Haravard University in 2004.

She scored the International Mathematical Olympiad's gold medal twice - in 1994 and 1995. Kerckhoff is a mathematics professor at Stanford and was one of Mirzakhani's collaborators.

His another post said, "A genius? Yes".

The president further expressed condolences to the country's scientific community and the bereaved family of Mirzakhani over her death.