Agnes Scott College

Maryam Mirzakhani

Maryam Mirzakhani

May 12, 1977 - July 15, 2017

Maryam Mirzakhani was the first woman to be awarded the Fields Medal, the highest award given in mathematics (comparable to a Nobel Prize). She was born in Tehran, Iran. During her high school years she won gold medals at the 1994 and 1995 International Mathematical Olympiads (with a perfect score on the 1995 exam), then earned her B.S. degree in mathematics in 1999 from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran. In 2004 she received her Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard University with a thesis in hyperbolic geometry entitled "Simple Geodesics on Hyperbolic Surfaces and Volume of the Moduli Space of Curves". Her work solved several deep problems about hyperbolic surfaces and resulted in three papers published in the top journals of mathematics. Her adviser was Curtis McMullen, who won a Fields Medal in 1998.

From 2004 to 2008 Mirzakhani was a Clay Mathematics Institute Research Fellow and assistant professor of mathematics at Princeton University. In 2006 she was recognized as one of Popular Science's "Brilliant 10" extraordinary scientists. In 2008 she joined the faculty at Stanford University as a full professor of mathematics.

In August 2014, Mirzakhani was awarded the Fields Medal "for her outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces." The citation says that she "has made stunning advances in the theory of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces, and led the way to new frontiers in the area. Her insights have integrated methods from diverse fields, such as algebraic geometry, topology and probability theory." Previously she had also won a 2014 Clay Research Award, the 2013 AMS Ruth Lyttle Satter Prize in Mathematics, and the 2009 AMS Blumenthal Award.

In 2018, at the World Meeting for Women in Mathematics in Rid de Janeiro, delegates voted to establish May 12 as a yearly global Celebration of Women in Mathematics on Maryam Mirzakhani's birthday. The first celebration occurred on May 12, 2019. Stories about the events on that day from around the world can be found in the article "May 12: Celebrating Women in Mathematics - From One Idea to One Hundred Events" in the December 12 issue of the Notices of the American Mathematical Society.

Extensive biographical information about her life and her mathematical accomplishments can be found in the references below.

Note: At the time of her death, many references incorrectly reported Mirzakhani's date of birth as May 3.


  1. A Tribute to Maryam Mirzakhani, American Mathematical Society
  2. "Maryam Mirzakhani: 1977-2017," Communicated by Hélène Barcelo and Stephen Kennedy, Notices of the American Mathematical Society, Vol. 65, No. 10 (November 2018), 1221-1247. Friends, colleagues and collaborators celebrate the life and exposit the extraordinary mathematical results of Maryam Mirzakhani.
  3. Salerno, Adriana. "Remembering Maryam Mirzakhani," AMS Blogs, posted July 24, 2017.
  4. Wilkinson, Amie. "With Snowflakes and Unicorns, Marina Ratner and Maryam Mirzakhani Explored a Universe in Motion," New York Times, August 7, 2017.
  5. Lamb, Evelyn. "Mathematics World Mourns Maryam Mirzakhani, Only Woman to Win Fields Medal,", Scientific American blog, posted July 17, 2017
  6. Myers, Andrew and Bjorn Carey. "Maryam Mirzakhani, Stanford mathematician and Fields Medal winner, dies", Stanford University News, July 15, 2017.
  7. Klarriech, Erica. A tenacious explorer of abstract surfaces, Quanta Magazine, August 12, 2014.
  8. Klarreich, Erica. A Tenacious Explorer of Abstract Surfaces,, Quanta Magazine (a video produced by the Simons Foundation in which Mirzakhani discusses the mathematics problems she studies).
  9. Carey, Bjorn. "Stanford's Maryam Mirzakhani wins Fields Medal", Stanford Report, August 12, 2014.
  10. "The Work of Maryam Mirzakhani", Notices of the American Mathematical Society, Vol. 61, No. 9 (October 2014), 1079-1081. (Reprint of the IMU article above)
  11. McMullen, Curtis. "The work of Maryam Mirzakhani," Laudatio delivered during the 2014 International Congress of Mathematicians.
  12. Svoboda, Elizabeth. "Maryam Mirzakhani", PopSci's Fourth Annual Brilliant 10,
  13. MathSciNet [subscription required]
  14. Mathematics Genealogy Project