An Iranian-born mathematician has become the first woman to win a prestigious Fields Medal, widely viewed as the Nobel Prize of mathematics. Maryam Mirzakhani, a Harvard-educated mathematician and professor at Stanford University in California, was one of four winners announced by the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) at its conference in Seoul on Wednesday. “This is a great honour. I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians,” Mirzakhani said in a press release from Stanford University where she is a professor. “I am sure there will be many more women winning this kind of award in coming years,” she added. The award recognised Mirzakhani’s sophisticated and highly original contributions to the fields of geometry and dynamical systems, particularly in understanding the symmetry of curved surfaces such as spheres.