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Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman to win the Fields Medal, the world's most prestigious math award, pictured Aug. 2014. (Twitter / BuzzFeed / MGN)

Iranian math genius Maryam Mirzakhani has died after battling breast cancer

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Maryam Mirzakhani, a well-known Stanford University professor who became the first and only woman to receive the highest honor in mathematics, has died after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 40.

Mirzakhani's death comes just three years after she received the Fields Medal, which is the highest honor in mathematics and the field-equivalent to a Nobel Prize. She received the Fields Medal for her work on complex geometry and dynamic systems.

Her work, Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said, inspired thousands of women to pursue math and science. And that legacy and sentiment was echoed on Twitter by those who knew her.

"A light was turned off today .... far too soon. Breaks my heart," former NASA scientist Firouz Naderi tweeted. "A genius? Yes. But also a daughter, a mother and a wife."


Mirzakhani was born in Tehran, Iran, and studied both in her home country and at Harvard University. She went on to become a mathematics professor at Stanford in 2008.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani praised Mirzakhani's work in a statement on Saturday.

"The grievous passing of Maryam Mirzakhani, the eminent Iranian and world-renowned mathematician, is very much heartrending," Rouhani said in a statement to the Tehran Times.

Mirzakhani said her work was "like being lost in a jungle and trying to use all the knowledge that you can gather to come up with some new tricks, and with some luck you might find a way out."

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Mirzakhani is survived by her husband, Jan Vondrák, and daughter, Anahita.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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