July 22 is “Pi Approximation Day” (under format Day/Month, which is: 22/7), and hence the fraction 22/7, which is a common approximation of Pi (π), makes this date, the unofficial or casual day for it (official Pi (π) Day is March 14 – 3/14).
As my first blog entry on this platform, and on this date, it is only fitting to bring attention to, and pay tribute to the late Maryam Mirzakhani, a pioneer in her field.
I first heard about Maryam Mirzakhani a few years ago after she won the Fields Award – often described as the “Nobel Prize of Mathematics”, and awarded to mathematicians under age 40. The under-40 rule is based on the following mission by Fields Award:
"...while it was in recognition of work already done, it was at the same time intended to be an encouragement for further achievement on the part of the recipients and a stimulus to renewed effort on the part of others."
Although I (and many of us) never heard of the Fields Award, we did now; it was all over [my] Social Media news (in Aug. 2014), and people shared the story with pride, because: the prize was won by a born and raised Iranian, and more importantly (and amazingly!), a woman – first woman to ever win the prize! (By the way, up to four recipients can win these awards – which are given every four years – and on August 2014, indeed there were four winners, but we (in the non-math world), only heard of one: Maryam Mirzakhani.)
I haven’t heard of her since, but when the familiar photo of this woman, with this intense look to her, and short, dark hair reappeared on a LinkedIn post, I recognized her instantly, but was also shocked and disheartened to read the headline that followed: “...Dies at 40”.
Maryam Mirzakhani, a mother, wife, mathematician, professor, and a role model to many, died of breast cancer on July 2017, at the age of 40. It is always extremely sad to hear of another person's death from this horrible disease, and at such a young age, but more so when the person had so much more to contribute to this world in a notable way.
Above I highlighted why the Fields Award is given specifically to those under the age of 40. Her death is obviously devastating for her loved ones, but it is also a tragedy for the math community, and for the “further achievement” that could have been.
From Fields, the citation with her 2014 win was the following: "her outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces."
I dedicate my first blog
in her honor, and for the hopes that her legacy may continue to inspire many more women in math, and for more diversity, inclusivity, and equality in all the science fields.