First Woman to Win Fields Medal: One pest-like notion that some people still hold onto is that women aren’t as good as men in math and science. But a woman named Maryam Mirzakhani just helped put that idea to rest. This past Wednesday, in Seoul, South Korea, this woman was awarded the Fields Medal (the Nobel Prize of math). It was the first time a woman had ever received this hyper-prestigious award.
First Woman to Win Fields Medal: Maryam Mirzakhani
Mirzakhani is an Iranian math professor at Stanford University. “This is a great honor. I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians,” Mirzakhani said. “I am sure there will be many more women winning this kind of award in coming years.
She received the prize for “Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces.” Riemann surfaces are objects of geometry made up of many tiny, distinct surfaces, each of which can be considered a separate point. Real-life examples of this are doughnuts and amoeba. Mirzakhani helped bring about great advances in understanding the dynamics of Riemann surfaces. I myself have more than a passing acquaintance with the dynamics of Riemann surfaces, and it’s a subject I could expound on for hours. But I’d hate to bore you. (Sarcasm.)
The fact that this was the first woman to win the Fields Medal highlights the disparity in math achievement between women and men. But it also shows that this difference probably isn’t genetic—Mirzakhani beat out thousands of brilliant male mathematicians to win it. Instead, the disparity is due to pervasive cultural attitudes that prevent women from equaling men in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.
These antiquated ideas are pests, and we need to get rid of them.
The intellect of each human being should be considered and fostered completely independently of that person’s gender.
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