“I think it’s rarely about what you actually learn in class. It’s mostly about things that you stay motivated to go and continue to do on your own.” -Maryam Mirzakhani, on success in mathematics
Only a few weeks ago, pioneering mathematician and the first (and only) woman to win the Fields Medal, Maryam Mirzakhani, tragically died of cancer at the young age of 40. Her brilliant work had applications to a huge variety of problems, from the periodic and/or chaotic motions of billiard balls to the question of designing a room that, even if completely covered by mirrors, could never be illuminated by a single candle.
A room where the walls, even if completely covered with mirrors, would never have every location illuminated, was a mathematically interesting conjecture that was only solved recently. Image credit: Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) / Numberphile / Brady Haran / Howard Masur.
Her life and her work were cut short by disease, but the story of both is truly an inspiration, as well as a testament to the power of creative thinking and the capabilities of the human mind. The pursuit of knowledge knows no national, racial, or gendered borders, and Maryam Mirzakhani’s life ...