Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman to win the prestigious Fields Medal for mathematics, has died at 40.
Mirzakhani, who was from Iran, died of breast cancer in the US, a relative told Iran's Mehr News Agency.
The Stanford University professor won the Fields Medal, which is considered the "Nobel Prize for mathematics," in 2014.
The internationally renowned mathematician was diagnosed with cancer four years ago, a year before she won the award.
Mirzakhani grew up in Tehran, where she excelled in math from an early age. As a teenager, she won gold medals at two International Mathematical Olympiad competitions.
After graduating from Iran's Sharif University of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics in 1999, she continued her education in the US, earning a PhD in mathematics from Harvard University in 2004.
In 2008, when she was 31, she became a full professor of mathematics at Stanford, where she taught until her death.
Following her Fields Medal win in 2014, Stanford President John Hennessy congratulated Mirzakhani for her accomplishment.
"On behalf of the entire Stanford community, I congratulate Maryam on this incredible recognition, the highest honor in her discipline, the first ever granted to a woman," said Hennessy. "We are proud of her achievements, and of the work taking place in our math department and among our faculty. We hope it will serve as an inspiration to many aspiring mathematicians."
At the time, Mirzakhani called the award a "great honor" and said she hoped it would inspire other young women in her field.
"I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians," Mirzakhani said. "I am sure there will be many more women winning this kind of award in coming years."
Following earlier news that Mirzakhani's health had taken a turn for the worse, a spokesperson for the Iranian foreign ministry told Mehr News that Iranians worldwide were proud of her.
Bahram Ghasemi, spokesperson for Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that "we and all Iranians around the world are praising and praying for her health knowing that the world of science was impatiently waiting for her return to the realm of research, teaching, and academic discussions.”
After her death, many people took to social media to mourn the loss of Mirzakhani.
"A light was turned off today," NASA scientist Firouz Michael Naderi wrote on Instagram. "It breaks my heart ..... gone far too soon."
"A genius? Yes. But also a daughter, a mother and a wife," Naderi also wrote.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called Mirzakhani a creative scientist, a humble person, and someone who stood for Iran on the world stage.
Black-ish actress Yara Shahidi called the mathematician "a brilliant light."
Gary Lewis, the UN resident coordinator in Iran, also mourned Mirzakhani.
Carnegie Endowment senior fellow Karim Sadjadpour said Mirzakhani's life would inspire young girls in the Middle East.
"Her brilliance lives on," wrote Nazanin Boniadi, Homeland actress and Amnesty International spokesperson.
Julia Reinstein is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Julia Reinstein at email@example.com.
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