Maryam Mirzakhani’s Pioneering Mathematical Legacy
The Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani, died Friday at the age of forty, was known to his colleagues as a virtuoso in the dynamics and geometry of complex surfaces, “mathematics science fiction,” said an admirer, and his young daughter Anahita as artist.
At the family home near Stanford University, Mirzakhani spent hours on the floor with paper overly refined paintings, drawing ideas, drawings, diagrams and formulas, often leading Anahita six years, to exclaim: “Oh, Mom is painted again !
Mirzakhani could be private and retired, but she was so indomitable and full of energy, especially at the table.
According to Roya Beheshti, an algebraic inspector at the University of Washington in St. Louis and a lifelong friend, the two talked about mathematics, reading and math have math, sometimes competitive, for several years. The Mirzakhani passion was evident from the beginning.
“Mary’s work was driven by a certain pure joy,” Beheshti said. “A lot of people have said how humble she was, and it’s true. She was very humble.
She was also very, very ambitious. From the beginning, from an early age, it was clear that he had very great goals. “When Mirzakhani was in sixth grade in Tehran, a teacher discouraged his interest in mathematics, and pointed out that he was not a special talent, not the top of the class.
A quarter of a century later, in 2014, she became the first woman (and the first Iranian) to win the Fields medal, the highest honor in mathematics.
Mirzakhani was proud of the compliments, but they were not his main concern. When his thesis director Curtis McMullen of Harvard addressed the Fields medal for his work at the 2014 International Mathematical Congress in Seoul, Mirzakhani sat in the front row with his daughter and her husband, the computer Jan Vondrák of Stanford.
As for the audience, McMullen pointed out that Mirzakhani did not pay attention to his moment of glory, which allowed him to be distracted by a very excited Anahita.
“Some scientists and mathematicians get involved in a problem to go beyond what other people have done, but they measure themselves against others,” McMullen told me. Maryam was not like that.
It would be to participate directly with the scientific challenge, with mathematics, no matter how difficult it was, and really delve into the heart of the matter.
Mathematician Manjul Bhargava of Princeton, who also won a Fields in 2014, said Mirzakhani “was a master of curved spaces.”
As explained by email, “Everyone knows that the shortest distance between two points on a flat surface is a straight line. But if the surface is curved, for example, the surface of a ball or a donut, then , The shortest distance … It will also be along a curved path, and therefore can be more complicated.
Maryam has shown many surprising theorems on shorter paths – called “geodesics” – on curved surfaces, among other notable results in geometry and beyond.