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May 12th: a comic story about Maryam Mirzakhani

For May 12, the new issue of the Comics & Science series was published, The Mirzakhani Issue, produced by Cnr Edizioni in collaboration with the Italian Mathematical Union, which contains the story UNDER THE SIGN OF TORUS, written by Davide La Rosa and drawn by Silvia Ziche. Here you can read and download the full volume.

What is mathematical billiards? What trajectory does the ball make when bouncing off its tables? Is it possible to find a billiard table where, given the starting point of the ball, there are inaccessible points? And what do donuts and pretzels have to do with it? Some of these curious questions – actually, profound mathematical questions – were sought by mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman to win the Fields Medal. Maryam Mirzakhani was an outstanding mathematician, one of the most notable minds of this millennium, and May 12, 1977 is her date of birth. When she died on July 15, 2017, the pain in the mathematical community was so enormous that in 2018, on the occasion of the first World Congress of Women in Mathematics, it was decided that May 12 would become the date on which to celebrate all the women in mathematics.

In celebrating this anniversary, the Italian Mathematical Union has decided to create, in collaboration with the National Research Council of Italy, on the proposal of the UMI commissions for equal opportunities and for communication, a volume of the Cnr Edizioni series Comics & Science with a story that has Maryam as its main character, created thanks to the surreal pen of Davide La Rosa, the masterful drawings of Silvia Ziche and the precious watercolors of Dario Grillotti. Surrounded by her mathematics family, Maryam is one-of-a-kind, but not alone. Alongside the story, which takes place in a particular atmosphere, full of mathematical suggestions, we find, as always, the highly refined and intelligent cartoons of Walter Leoni. The translator of the text (also of the full content of the volume) from the original Italian edition has been Jamie Richards.

But Comics & Science is not only comics. In fact, we also have a rich appendix of commentary. Chiara de Fabritiis, professor at the Polytechnic University of Marche and coordinator of the Equal Opportunities Committee of UMI, invites us to reconsider the widespread fear of making mistakes, explaining that in mathematics, error is a precious resource. Along with patience. Chiara, together with Barbara Nelli, professor at the University of L’Aquila, interviews the screenwriter Davide La Rosa and the artist Silvia Ziche, discovering their relationship with mathematics and above all how they handled the story of this charismatic and symbolic scientist. Elisabetta Strickland, professor at the University of Rome Tor Vergata and European member of the May 12 Coordination Group, tells us how Maryam Mirzhakani’s birthday has become the date for celebrating women in mathematics. Uniqueness, but also being part of many communities, is something that characterized Maryam Mirzakhani’s life, and this is what Barbara Fantechi, professor at SISSA, speaks to us about. As often happens, Comics & Science also offers a glimpse of some of the topics Mirzakhani addressed in her work, in a piece by its editorial staff written in collaboration with Corinna Ulcigrai, thanks to a discussion with Alfonso Sorrentino. Following is a remembrance by Ingrid Daubechies, James B. Duke Distinguished Professor at Duke University, who in 2014 was president of the International Mathematical Union, the organization that awards the Fields Medal, and therefore had the task of informing Mirzakhani that she was the first woman to have won one. The volume closes with a heartfelt letter from a high school student, Donata Moschella, who had the opportunity to preview the comic and reports her impressions directly to Maryam.

Using the flip-book commands below you can read the book in fullscreen, download or print it.


Silvia Ziche (Thiene, 1967) published her first comics in Linus in 1987. Then she made the pages of Cuore, Smemoranda, Topolino, Comix. Over the years she has contributed to several other periodicals and worked on several comic books. She has maintained a continuous collaboration with Disney publications alongside her own production. Her most recent character, Lucrezia, appears weekly on the pages of Donna Moderna, and occasionally, in bookstores.

Davide La Rosa (Como, 1980), after graduating from high school and a brief detour in Astronomy, enrolled in comics school. Alongside his studies he along with Emiliano Mattioli created the project “Fumetti Disegnati Male,” a self-produced magazine that collects various genres of comics drawn in a jumbled, rough, not “graphically correct” manner. He collaborates with Nicola Pesce Editore, Star Comics, Shockdom, and Sergio Bonelli Editore, among others. The original and controversial figure of the “cartoonist who doesn’t know how to draw,” he is one of the most beloved authors in the independent scene and the author of numerous books, including Zombi gay in Vaticano, Suore ninja, Paco Lanciano e il fagiano crononauta, Ugo Foscolo, indagatore dell’incubo, Giuseppe Parini, naufrago delle stelle, Dizionario dei film brutti a fumetti (with Fabrizio Di Nicola), Il libretto rosso del trio occhialuto antifascista, and La Divina Commedia illustrata male.


Text of the post translated by Jamie Richards.