Today is International Women in Mathematics Day! It is a joyous occasion to celebrate and honor women in the mathematics community. But why are we having a seemingly unremarkable date to highlight the role of women? To begin with, one should start with the legendary mathematician, Maryam Mirzakhani.
Mirzakhani was an Iranian mathematician born on May 12, 1977. While a teenager, Mirzakhani had won the gold medal of the International Mathematical Olympiad in 1994 and 1995, especially attaining perfect score in the latter. After earning a B.Sc. degree in mathematics in Tehran, Iran, she moved to the U.S., completed her Ph.D. at Harvard University, and became one of the youngest professors at Stanford University at the age of 31.
Mirzakhani was not only widely known for her expertise in geometry and dynamical systems; she was also the only woman to have received the Fields Medal. The citation for her award recognized “her outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces.”
Mirzakhani died from cancer in 2017 at the early age of 40, yet her spirit and achievements have inspired many. In 2018, a proposal to recognize Mirzakhani as a hallmark to support and honor women in mathematics was proposed and approved.