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First woman ever wins top math prize

Stanford professor Maryam Mirzakhani has become the first woman to win the "Nobel Prize of math" since the award's inception in 1936.
Maryam Mirzakhani
Stanford University professor Maryam Mirzakhani

For the first time ever, a woman has won a Fields Medal, the world's top math prize, according to The New York Times. 

Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian mathematician who is a professor at Stanford, was one of four winners announced on Wednesday. She is the first female Fields Medal winner in history since the award was established in 1936.

The Fields Medal is often considered the mathematics equivalent of the Nobel Prize. It is awarded once every four years at the International Congress of Mathematicians. 

In a press release from Stanford, Mirzakhani said: "This is a great honor. I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians. I am sure there will be many more women winning this kind of award in coming years."

Other Fields Medal winners this year are Artur Avila of the Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics in Brazil, Manjul Bhargava of Princeton, and Martin Hairer of the University of Warwick in England. 

Ingrid Daubechies, a professor of math at Duke University and president of the International Mathematical Union, told theTimes: “All researchers in mathematics will tell you that there is no difference between the math done by a woman or a man, and of course the decision of the Fields Medal committee is based only on the results of each candidate. That said, I bet the vast majority of the mathematicians in the world will be happy that it will no longer be possible to say that ‘the Fields Medal has always been awarded only to men.’ ”