First woman wins Fields Medal, top prize in mathematics

2014 Fields Medal winner Maryam Mirzakhani, a professor of mathematics at Stanford University.

International Mathematical Union

In the 78-year history of the Fields Medal, mathematics' highest prize, the award has never gone to a woman -- until now. Stanford University professor Maryam Mirzakhani is the first to break that gender barrier.

Mirzakhani, 37, was awarded the prize Wednesday during the opening ceremony of The International Congress of Mathematicians 2014 in Seoul, South Korea. Park Geun-hye, the President of South Korea, bestowed the medal, the group said in a press release.

The Fields Medal, math's highest honor.
International Mathematical Union

The International Mathematical Union (IMU) selects winners of the Fields Medal every four years to recognize the best work and greatest promise in mathematicians under the age of 40.

IMU said Mirzakhani won hers for "her early results in hyperbolic geometry, and her most recent work [which] constitutes a major advance in dynamical systems," and it praised her for making "stunning advances" in the field.

Mirzakhani was born in Tehran, Iran. She received her Ph.D. in 2004 from Harvard University. After four years at Princeton she moved to Stanford University, where she is now a professor.

She was one of four Fields Medal winners this year. Artur Avila, Manjul Bhargava, and Martin Hairer were also honored for their mathematical breakthroughs.