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Iranian Mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani,

First Woman to Win the Fields Medal,

Dies at 40 of breast cancer in the U.S.

Mirzakhani was revered for her Fields Medal-winning work on complex geometry dynamical systems and paving an illustrious path for women in mathematics

“This is a great honor,” she was quoted as saying in 2014. “I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians.”

 

Maryam Mirzakhani at a press conference after the awards ceremony for the Fields Medals
Maryam Mirzakhani at a press conference after the awards ceremony for the Fields Medals at the International Congress of Mathematicians 2014 in Seoul on August 13, 2014.

Maryam Mirzakhani, Iranian-born mathematician and the first woman to receive the prestigious Fields Medal for mathematics, has died in the U.S.

The Fields Medal was established in 1936, and Mirzakhani became both the first woman and first Iranian to receive the award for her work on complex geometry and dynamical systems in 2014.

The distinguished prize, often nicknamed as the “Nobel Prize for Mathematics,” is only awarded every four years to between two and four mathematicians under 40. 

“A light was turned off today. It breaks my heart… gone far too soon,” her friend, NASA scientist Firouz Naderi, posted on Instagram

Mirzakhani was born in Tehran and lived there until she began her doctorate work at Harvard University, later taking a professorship at Stanford University.

She had dreamed of becoming a writer when she was young, she said, but instead pursued her enthusiasm for solving mathematical problems.

“It is fun – it’s like solving a puzzle or connecting the dots in a detective case. I felt that this was something I could do, and I wanted to pursue this path,” she said after receiving the Fields Medal.

Mort de Simone Veil, icône de la lutte pour les droits des femmes

L’ancienne déportée, ancienne ministre de la santé et femme politique, est décédée à l’âge de 89 ans.

Par Anne Chemin LE MONDE | 30.06.2017

Simone Veil est morte à l’âge de 89 ans, a fait savoir sa famille vendredi 30 juin.
L’ancienne déportée incarne – à sa manière – les trois grands moments de l’histoire du XXe siècle : la Shoah, l’émancipation des femmes et l’espérance Européenne.
Au cours de sa vie, Simone Veil a en effet épousé, parfois bien malgré elle, les tourments d’un siècle fait de grandes désespérances mais aussi de beaux espoirs : elle fait partie des rares juifs français ayant survécu à la déportation à Auschwitz, elle symbolise la conquête du droit à l’avortement et elle est l’une des figures de la construction Européenne.

L’énergie d’une survivante

Dès son retour en France, Simone Veil défie en effet le temps et les hommes avec la stupéfiante énergie d’une survivante. « Elle a toujours eu un instinct vital très fort, comme si elle voulait inscrire son nom et celui de sa lignée dans la pierre, constate l’ancienne députée (UMP) Françoise de Panafieu.

Quand on a survécu au plus grand drame du XXe siècle, on ne voit évidemment pas la vie de la même manière. Les enfants, le travail, la politique : elle a tout fait comme si elle défiait la mort.

Elle voulait être exemplaire aux yeux de ses enfants, de ses proches et surtout, de tous ceux qu’elle a perdus. »

A peine rentrée des camps, Simone Veil s’inscrit à Sciences Po, se marie, élève trois garçons et décide d’appliquer sans délai le principal enseignement de sa mère : pour être indépendante, une femme doit travailler.

Au terme d’un rude débat conjugal, Antoine Veil finit par transiger à condition que sa femme s’oriente vers la magistrature.

Simone Veil évolue dans les milieux du Mouvement républicain populaire (MRP) dont son mari est proche, mais son cœur penche parfois à gauche : elle s’enthousiasme pour Pierre Mendès France, glisse à plusieurs reprises un bulletin de vote socialiste dans l’urne et s’inscrit brièvement au Syndicat de la magistrature.

En mai 1968, elle observe avec bienveillance la rébellion des étudiants du Quartier latin. « Contrairement à d’autres, je n’estimais pas que les jeunes se trompaient : nous vivions bel et bien dans une société figée », écrit-elle.

Lors de la présidentielle de 1969, elle vote pour Georges Pompidou… sans se douter qu’elle intégrera bientôt le cabinet du garde des sceaux. Elle devient ensuite la première femme secrétaire générale du Conseil supérieur de la magistrature, puis, la première femme à siéger au conseil d’administration de l’ORTF.

« Nos parents étaient assez atypiques, note son fils Jean Veil. Ma mère travaillait alors que celles de mes copains jouaient au bridge ou restaient à la maison. »

« Nous habitions place Saint-André-des-Arts et quand elle était à la chancellerie, elle revenait déjeuner avec nous à midi, à toute vitesse », raconte Pierre-François Veil. « Et on finissait souvent de manger sur la plate-forme du bus parce qu’on était en retard ! ajoute son frère Jean. Notre mère n’était pas très exigeante sur le plan scolaire. Ses exigences portaient plutôt sur le comportement et la morale. Ce qu’elle ne voulait pas, c’est qu’on reste à ne rien faire. Ça, ça l’énervait beaucoup. »

« Nous ne pouvons plus fermer les yeux »

Car Simone Veil a la passion de l’action, pour ses enfants comme pour elle-même. Elle est bien vite servie.

Un jour de 1974, le couple Veil dîne chez des amis lorsque la maîtresse de maison demande discrètement à Simone Veil de sortir de table : le premier ministre Jacques Chirac souhaite lui parler au téléphone. « Il m’a demandé si je voulais entrer au gouvernement pour être ministre de la santé, racontait-elle en 2009. J’étais magistrat, la santé, ce n’était pas la chose principale de mon existence mais après de longues hésitations, j’ai fini par accepter tout en me disant : “mon Dieu, dans quoi vais-je me fourrer ?” Pendant plusieurs semaines, je me suis dit que j’allais faire des bêtises. Au pire, on me renverrait dans mes fonctions ! »

La tâche de la toute nouvelle ministre de la santé s’annonce rude : le Planning familial s’est lancé dans la pratique des avortements clandestins.

Le prédécesseur de Simone Veil à la santé, Michel Poniatowski, la prévient qu’il faut aller vite. « Sinon, vous arriverez un matin au ministère et vous découvrirez qu’une équipe squatte votre bureau et s’apprête à y pratiquer un avortement… » Simone Veil présente très rapidement un texte pour autoriser l’IVG, qui lui vaut des milliers de lettres d’insultes.

« A cette époque, certains de ses amis ne voulaient plus la recevoir, d’autres ont cessé de lui adresser la parole, raconte Françoise de Panafieu, dont la mère, Hélène Missoffe, était secrétaire d’Etat à la santé dans le même gouvernement. On imagine mal, aujourd’hui, la violence des débats. »

Le 26 novembre 1974, alors que des militants de Laissez-les vivre égrènent silencieusement leur chapelet devant le Palais-Bourbon, Simone Veil monte à la tribune de l’Assemblée nationale pour défendre son texte :

« Nous ne pouvons plus fermer les yeux sur les 300, 000 avortements qui, chaque année, mutilent les femmes de ce pays, qui bafouent nos lois et qui humilient ou traumatisent celles qui y ont recours. (…) Je ne suis pas de ceux et de celles qui redoutent l’avenir.

Les jeunes générations nous surprennent parfois en ce qu’elles diffèrent de nous ; nous les avons nous-mêmes élevées de façon différente de celle dont nous l’avons été. Mais cette jeunesse est courageuse, capable d’enthousiasme et de sacrifices comme les autres. Sachons lui faire confiance pour conserver à la vie sa valeur suprême. »

En réponse, le député René Feït fait écouter les battements du cœur d’un fœtus tandis que Jean Foyer (UDF) dénonce les « abattoirs où s’entassent les cadavres de petits d’hommes ».

Jean-Marie Daillet (UDF), qui dira plus tard ignorer le passé de déportée de Simone Veil, évoque même le spectre des embryons « jetés au four crématoire ». Le baptême du feu est rude, mais pendant les débats, Simone Veil s’impose comme une femme politique de conviction : Le Nouvel Observateur en fait la « révélation de l’année ».

Présidente du Parlement européen

Simone Veil passe cinq ans au ministère de la santé, un poste qu’elle retrouvera de 1993 à 1995 dans le gouvernement d’Edouard Balladur. Elle est alors au zénith de sa popularité : en 1977, lorsque Antoine Veil se présente sous les couleurs du RPR aux élections municipales, à Paris, les électeurs ne cessent de lui demander s’il est le « mari de Simone Veil ».

« Non, répond-il dans un sourire, c’est Simone Veil qui est ma femme… » Les collaborateurs de Simone Veil décrivent volontiers une femme exigeante, qui s’emporte facilement et supporte mal la médiocrité.

Dans ses Mémoires, Roger Chinaud, qui l’a vu un jour tempêter contre son directeur de cabinet, affirme que dans ce domaine, il ne lui connaît qu’un seul rival, Philippe Séguin.

En 1979, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, qui aime les symboles, décide de faire de Simone Veil, qui vient d’être élue députée européenne, la présidente du premier Parlement européen élu au suffrage universel.

« Qu’une ancienne déportée accède à la présidence du nouveau Parlement de Strasbourg lui paraissait de bon augure pour l’avenir », écrit-elle.

Jacques Delors se souvient de l’élan de ces années-là. « Le Parlement européen faisait ses premiers pas, tout était neuf, tout était à inventer. Nous vivions dans les balbutiements d’une Europe enthousiaste mais Simone Veil a fait preuve, pendant sa présidence, d’une qualité rare : le discernement. Dès son discours d’intronisation, elle a souligné les difficultés de la construction européenne. »

Dans les années 1990, Simone Veil s’éloigne du monde politique pour se consacrer au Conseil constitutionnel.

A la fin des années 2000, elle se retire peu à peu de la vie publique : en 2007, elle quitte le Conseil constitutionnel, puis, quelques semaines plus tard, la présidence de la Fondation pour la mémoire de la Shoah.

Son mari et sa sœur sont décédés, elle vit au pays des souvenirs – celui de ses proches, bien sûr, mais aussi celui des morts de la Shoah. « Je sais que nous n’en aurons jamais fini avec eux, écrivait-elle. Ils nous accompagnent où que nous allions, formant une immense chaîne qui les relie à nous autres, les rescapés. »

Note: I watched an exhaustive documentary on Simone last night. For 3 days, she sat in the parliament to defend her abortion law, listening to the deputies who lambasted her for reverting to Nazi activities of killing and burning avorted babies. I cannot believe that many of them were ignorant that she is a survivor of concentration camps.

En savoir plus sur http://www.lemonde.fr/disparitions/article/2017/06/30/mort-de-simone-veil-icone-de-la-lutte-pour-les-droits-des-femmes_5153554_3382.html#30uBjvMw8BLXLBHF.99

He Sold His Startup For $54 Million, Then Gave His Family a Gift of a Lifetime

 

Collecting the World: The Life and Curiosity of Hans Sloane.

By James Delbourgo.

Allen Lane; 503 pages; £25. To be published in America by Belknap in July; $35.

JOINED-UP words and sentences with verbs are not enough to describe Sir Hans Sloane. An Anglo-Irish physician, collector and naturalist

Only a list can do justice to this man, who was both quite remarkable and, to some, a little touched.

Over the course of a lifetime, he managed to accumulate 3,516 volumes of manuscripts, as well as books of prints, which together amounted to 50,000 volumes; 32,000 medals and coins; 5,843 testacea and shells; 173 starfish; 12,506 vegetable substances and 55 mathematical instruments.

This is just a selection from Sloane’s collection, much of which he eventually catalogued himself.

Or try this: “a set of surgeons’ instruments made from fish-skin; inks and inkhorns; face-paint; medicinal powders and pills; women’s shoes made of leather and silk; gold and silver pins and needles for the practice of acupuncture; tobacco pipes; several portable Buddhist ‘idols’; gilded rhinoceros horns; ‘metallick burning glasses’ and ‘a ball of several colours to be thrown into the fire to perfume a room’.” These are some of the objects Sloane acquired from Japan.

The Anglo-Irish physician, collector and naturalist was not a man of small ambitions. He aimed for universal knowledge, available to all humankind, with a serious play for personal immortality thrown in.

He did not make such a bad fist of them: his acquisitions became the foundation of the British Museum, as well as the collections of the Natural History Museum and the British Library.

He would surely be irritated that his name endures more strongly in London’s topography than in universal understanding.

There are a dozen or so Sloanes and Hanses listed in the city’s “A to Z”, because Sloane had the presence of mind to buy up most of Chelsea in the course of his long and prosperous life.

He was born in Ulster in 1660 and died at 92 with a cunning plan to leave a permanent mark on human civilisation.

He had set himself up in London as a physician and made himself the undisputed king of the capital’s medicine men, attending the best bedsides for the best prices. He married money and enjoyed the revenues from vast slave-plantations in Jamaica.

Sloane was president of the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal Society but he was not exactly a man of ideas.

What he liked was stuff. He was a man of the Enlightenment, but not a man remarkable for enlightened thought. An enemy called him “master of only scraps”.

In his early days Sloane spent a year in Jamaica, working as a physician just as Britain was concentrating on acquiring an empire.

Prudently he stuck to water while his patients drank themselves to death on Madeira wine. This was the time when he began to get serious about collecting.

After he had accumulated his Jamaicana, he returned to London and set about collecting the rest of the world.

In this he had the assistance of a large fortune, a vast network of contacts—he was reckoned to have 1,793 correspondents—and a limitless curiosity, or perhaps a limitless appetite for curious things.

Sloane sold the lot to the nation posthumously, for £20,000 (worth about £4m, or $5.2m, now), which he reckoned was a quarter of its value, to be paid to his two daughters. Had the nation turned down this offer, his executors had instructions to offer the stuff to St Petersburg.

He was a curious man in every sense. His biographer has struggled with a shortage of anecdotal and humanising material.

That gives “Collecting the World” a somewhat static feel, like a cabinet of curiosities. Little of Sloane’s stuff remains on display in London, though there is still a store of his Jamaican specimens in the Sir Hans Sloane herbarium at the Natural History Museum.

It is a reminder of that great tradition of learning, based around museums and libraries and emblematic of what the British Museum would come to describe as being, “for the benefit of all studious and curious persons, native and foreign”.

This article appeared in the Books and arts section of the print edition under the headline Hoarder extraordinaire

Nabra Hassanen: Chaplain at local mosque says murdered teen ‘revolutionised and inspired an entire community’

‘An angel was taken,’ the All Dulles Area Muslim Society chaplain says

“These youth have vowed to take her advice, because she always gave good advice, to give to people who are in need, even if it’s your last dollar,” and “befriend people who other people don’t like”.

The murder of a Muslim teenager has “revolutionised and inspired an entire community”, according to a chaplain at the mosque where she was travelling on the night she was killed.

Nabra Hassanen was abducted and murdered by a passing motorist on her way to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center in Fairfax County, Virginia, police said.

The 17-year-old’s killer allegedly kidnapped the teenager after engaging her group of friends in an argument and following them into a McDonald’s carpark.

The group had just finished their last meal of the day before fasting for Ramadan.

The suspect, 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres, is currently being held without bail.

While Hassanen’s death stoked fear in Virginia Muslim community, ADAMS Center chaplain Chaplain Joshua Salaam says it has also inspired her peers to lead more thoughtful lives.

“These youth have vowed to take her advice, because she always gave good advice,” Mr Salaam said, adding that Hassanen encouraged her friends to “give to people who are in need, even if it’s your last dollar,” and “befriend people who other people don’t like”.

“When you knew her you might possibly begin to understand why this is so hard for this community: because an angel was taken,” he said.

Hassanen’s father – speaking through ADAMS Imam Mohamed Magid – said little, besides that he hopes his community will “express love always to one another” regardless of religion or race.

Mr Hassanen has said he believes “100 per cent” that his daughter was targeted because of her religion.

“In the McDonald’s there’s a lot of kids, a lot of people; why did he run behind this girl especially? For what?” he asked.

Fairfax County Police are not investigating Hassanen’s death as a hate crime. In a press release, they said they believe the murder was a “road rage incident”.

“It appears the suspect became so enraged over this traffic argument that it escalated into deadly violence,” spokeswoman Julie Parker said.

Mr Salaam said he trusts the police will fully investigate the motives for Hassanen’s death.

“They can only move as fast as the facts come in,” he said.

Asked if he believed the young woman’s death was a hate crime, he replied, “That’s not for us to decide”.

Police are also investigating whether the teenager was sexually assaulted before her death.

 

NSA leaker Daniel Ellsberg: Snowden made the right call

Opinions, July 7, 2013

Daniel Ellsberg is the author of “Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.”

He was charged in 1971 under the Espionage Act as well as for theft and conspiracy for copying the Pentagon Papers. The trial was dismissed in 1973 after evidence of government misconduct, including illegal wiretapping, was introduced in court.

Many people unfavourably compare Edward Snowden to me for leaving the country and seeking asylum, rather than facing trial as I did. I don’t agree.

The country I stayed in was a different America, a long time ago. (Excellent observation)

After the New York Times had been enjoined from publishing the Pentagon Papers — on June 15, 1971, the first prior restraint on a newspaper in U.S. history — and I had given another copy to The Post (which would also be enjoined), I went underground with my wife, Patricia, for 13 days.

My purpose (quite like Snowden’s in flying to Hong Kong) was to elude surveillance while I was arranging — with the crucial help of a number of others, still unknown to the FBI — to distribute the Pentagon Papers sequentially to 17 other newspapers, in the face of two more injunctions.

The last three days of that period was in defiance of an arrest order: I was, like Snowden now, a “fugitive from justice.”

Yet when I surrendered to arrest in Boston, having given out my last copies of the papers the night before, I was released on personal recognizance bond the same day.

Later, when my charges were increased from the original three counts to 12, carrying a possible 115-year sentence, my bond was increased to $50,000. But for the whole two years that I was under indictment, I was free to speak to the media and at rallies and public lectures.

I was, after all, part of a movement against an ongoing war. Helping to end that war was my preeminent concern.

I couldn’t have done that abroad, and leaving the country never entered my mind.

A pollination technique invented by a 12 year old slave is the reason Vanilla is available today

Aug 30, 2016 Neil Patrick

Edmond Albius was born a slave but became an important figure in the cultivation of vanilla.

At the age of 12, he invented a technique for pollinating vanilla orchids quickly and profitably.

Albius’ technique revolutionized the cultivation of vanilla and made it possible to profitably grow vanilla beans away from their native Mexico.

Portrait of Edmond Albius, circa 1863 Source: Wikipedia/Public Domain
Portrait of Edmond Albius, circa 1863 Source: Wikipedia/Public Domain

French colonists brought vanilla beans to Réunion and nearby Mauritius in the 1820s with the hope of starting production there.

However, the vines were sterile because no insect would pollinate them. In the 1830s, Charles Morren, a professor of botany at the University of Liège in Belgium, developed a method of hand-pollinating vanilla, but his technique was slow and required too much effort to make cultivating vanilla a moneymaking proposition.

Drawing of Vanilla from the Florentine Codex (circa 1580) and description of its use and properties written in the Nahuatl language Source: Wikipedia/Public Domain
Drawing of Vanilla from the Florentine Codex (circa 1580) and description of its use and properties written in the Nahuatl language Source: Wikipedia/Public Domain

In 1841, Albius discovered how to quickly pollinate the vanilla orchid with a thin stick or blade of grass and a simple thumb gesture. With the stick or grass blade, field hands lift the rostellum, the flap that separates the male anther from the female stigma, and then, with their thumbs, smear the sticky pollen from the anther over the stigma.

In 1848, France outlawed slavery in its colonies, and Albius left the plantation for St. Denis, where he worked as a kitchen servant.

He was convicted of stealing jewellery and sentenced to ten years in prison, but the sentence was commuted after five years when the governor granted him clemency in light of his enormous contribution to vanilla production in Réunion.

Albius died in poverty in St. Suzanne in 1880.

Vanilla fruits, dried By B.navez - Photo : B.navez, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=436896
Vanilla fruits, dried By B.navez – Photo : B.navez, CC BY-SA 3.0, 

Albius’ manual pollination method is still used today, as nearly all vanilla is pollinated by hand.

After Albius’s discovery, Réunion became for a time the world’s largest supplier of vanilla. French colonists used Albius’ technique in Madagascarto cultivate vanilla, and Madagascar remains the world’s chief vanilla producer.


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