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Major news emerged this week about a significant first in the field of mathematics. The Fields Medal, which is the most prestigious prize in the field - its version of the Nobel Prize - was awarded to a woman. Maryam Mirzakhani is an Iranian born professor of maths at Stanford University. She also has a connection to Massachusetts, having earned her PhD at Harvard University. Her work, with emphasis on geometric structures and their deformations, is regarded by her peers as being "technically superb and boldly ambitious". Originally drawn more to literature as a child growing up in Iran, her brother introduced her to math, which eventually captured her imagination. She went on to win major international competitions around the world in mathematics en route to her PhD and professorship.
Established in 1924, the Fields Medal Award was created by the International Congress of Mathematicians, with the first awards being granted in 1936. Medals are awarded very four years, recognizing achievements in mathematics by people who are 40 years old or younger, taking into consideration both past achievements and future potential. Along with Mirzakhani, medals went to Martin Hairer of Warwick University, Manjul Bhargava of Princeton University, and Artur Avila, based at the Institute of Mathematics of Jussieu in Paris, in a ceremony in South Korea. These four winners join 55 medalists before them.
Read more about Mirzakhani's background, and the work of the other 2014 medalists at The Guardian: Fields Medal mathematics prize won by woman for the first time in its history.