The first woman to win the Fields Medal—essentially math's version of the Nobel Prize—has died at the age of 40 after a battle with breast cancer, NPR reports. According to AFP, Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian-born Stanford professor, won the award in 2014 for her work in geometry and dynamical systems, specifically in regards to curved surfaces. "A light was turned off today," a friend wrote on Instagram. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says Mirzakhani's passing has caused "great sorrow."
Mirzakhani, who was the first Iranian woman elected to the National Academy of Sciences, originally wanted to be a writer before surrendering to her passion for math. "It is like being lost in a jungle and trying to use all the knowledge that you can gather to come up with some new tricks, and with some luck you might find a way out," she once said of mathematics. In a statement, Stanford called Mirzakhani "ambitious, resolute, and fearless."