90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Woman Wins ‘Math Nobel’ For First Time

Iranian-born Stanford mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani is among the four winners of the Fields Medal. (Courtesy of Maryam Mirzakhani)

Iranian-born Stanford mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani is among the four winners of the Fields Medal. (Courtesy of Maryam Mirzakhani)

For the first time ever, a woman has won the Fields Medal. Iranian-born Stanford mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani is among the four winners of what is often referred to as the Nobel Prize of mathematics.

“It’s absolutely huge,” Keith Devlin, a mathematician and co-founder and director of Stanford’s H-Star Institute, told Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson of the first female win. “The role model that Maryam represents to young women all over the world is phenomenal.”

He hopes that Mirzakhani’s win will be a real “eye-opener” for more women to get involved in mathematics.

“Everyone then knows, ‘I can do that too’,” he said. “This is really dramatic in providing inspiration to young people all over the world that they too can aspire and achieve what she’s achieved.”

“It’s just a matter of time before more women will do it.”

It’s been a long struggle for women to succeed in mathematics, a field traditionally dominated by men. Devlin cites that only about 30 percent of graduate students in the U.S. in mathematics are female.

“It’s just a matter of time before more women will do it,” he said. His daughters are a prime example. “Society’s pressures sort of forced them to hide the fact that they had skills in mathematics and science. The world works like that. It’s a sad thing and we’re trying to overcome it.”

Devlin sees Mirzakhani’s win as a real “it can be done” moment.

When asked to explain the math that Mirzakhani won the Fields Medal for, Devlin responded with laughter.

“You know, its the nature of the Fields medals that the people that win them do it for doing extremely groundbreaking work. So, not only is it hard — and almost impossible — to explain it to a general audience, it’s hard for someone like myself who has spent a career in mathematics to really know what they’ve done,” he admitted.

The Fields Medal is often viewed as the highest accolade that a mathematician can receive.

Guest


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Spotlight

Here & Now resident chef and cookbook author Kathy Gunst shares her list of the best cookbooks of the year.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

December 16 Comment

‘Sacred Journeys’ Documents Religious Pilgrimages

In a new documentary series on PBS, Bruce Feiler accompanies Americans on pilgrimages to six of the world's holiest sites.

December 16 2 Comments

Jewish Cuisine — It’s Not Just Chopped Liver

Janna Gur shares some history of Jewish cuisine, as well as three recipes from her new cookbook "Jewish Soul Food."

December 15 11 Comments

As School Fees Rise, So Do Questions Over What Constitutes A Free Education

As schools across the country struggle with budget cuts, more and more are charging fees for essential school-related services.

December 15 3 Comments

Both Sides Undergoing Mediation To Resolve Homeless Feeding Dispute

A 90-year-old activist has been arrested recently for feeding the homeless — an act that is illegal in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.