Maryam Mirzakhani - Mathematician (Iran)
Nobel prize winner for maths, 2014
Girls Can Do Anything is a picture book written by me and illustrated by Ali Pye, publishing on 2 August this year.
It is a book about all the things that girls can do and about some of the things they might aspire to do when they grow up. It is a book about dreams and, to demonstrate to children that their dreams are achievable, the book includes a Gallery of Inspirational Women - women who are living the lives that our children may dream about.
In the book, we tell children that some girls like maths, but how many female mathematicians have you heard of?
OK, you may not have heard of many mathematicians at all, but I’m fairly sure the ones you have heard of are male. Come on, let’s do a quick google search and see…OK, we have Archimedes, Newton, Einstein, Pythagoras, Fibonacci…you get the picture.
Amazingly, a couple of women do come up in the search. I’ve found Ada Lovelace, arguably the first person to realise the potential of algorithms in computing in the 1850s and the world’s first computer programmer. Then there’s Sophie Germain, who did some pioneering work on Fermat’s last theorem. But they’re both historic figures and for the Girls Can Do Anything gallery of inspirational women, I wanted to find someone who represents mathematics today. Someone young and funky that children could identify with and look up to.
I first heard about Maryam Mirzakhani just after her death from cancer in 2017. She was only 40, which struck me as a terrible waste. Of course, any death, especially at a young age, is a waste, but she stuck in my mind. Maryam Mirzakhani was a brilliant Iranian mathematician who worked at Stanford University in the USA. The photograph that accompanied the article was of a confident, bright woman who looked...well.. normal. It was her normality that struck me, I think. She wasn’t a fusty old relic from the past, or a socially-inept academic. She was a normal human being who happened to be brilliant at maths. So brilliant that she was the first woman to win the Fields medal in maths for her work on super-whizzy things like hyperbolic geometry, Ergodic theory and other brain boggling stuff that only the super-mathsy clever people will understand. I am not one of those people, but I did like maths at school and perhaps I’d have had more confidence that maths was a great thing to enjoy, if I’d had someone like Miryam to look up to.
And that's why Miryam Mirzakhani deserves a placed in our Gallery of Inspirational Women.
Check back tomorrow to see who else is on our list!
Who inspires you?
We want to create a gallery of people who inspire you!
Download a competition entry form and you could win a hardback copy of the book, an awesome art set, and your entry in the online gallery. Competition closes 31 August, 2018. Entries sent after this date can still be included in the online gallery but will not be eligible for the prize.