Emmy Noether
1882 - 1935

Albert Einstein wrote in a letter about Emmy Noether to the New York Times, after her death in 1935, "In the judgement of the most competent living mathematicians, Fraulein Noether was the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began." Einstein also wrote in a letter to Professor David Hilbert that Emmy Noether display "penetrating mathematical thinking." Emmy was highly respected by many male mathematicians, even though women were not yet widely accepted as great mathematical minds. Professor Bartel Leedert van der Waerden once wrote, "For Emmy Noether, relationships among numbers, functions, and operations became transparent, amenable to generalization, and productive only after they have been disassociated from any particular objects and have been reduced to general conceptual relationships."

Emmy Noether was born March 23rd in 1882. Her father was a mathematician and her brother made his living in the mathematics field as well. At the age of 18 Emmy decided to go to college to earn a degree in mathematics. Since the university did not allow women to be students she sat in on classes and then took and passed the test to be admitted as a doctoral student after only two years. After five more years of study as a doctoral student she earned her doctorate. Only the second awarded to a women in the field of mathematics.

Even though she had a doctorate in mathematics the University of Erlangen would not allow her to become a faculty member. Instead, she helped her father by leading his classes when he was absent. Emmy lectured at the University of Gottingen by advertising her courses under Professor David Hilbert's name. Hilbert was campaigning to have her admitted to the faculty while he was allowing her to teach under his name. She eventually received a teaching job at University of Gottingen, but was not actually receiving any salary for over three years.

Since Emmy was a women and a Jew she couldn't teach under Hitler's new regime and she relocated to the United States were she taught at Bryn Mawr College, an all girls school. She also was a guest lecturer at Princeton University. Emmy died two years later on April 14th, 1935, she had kept her illness secret from most people so her death was a great surprise to the mathematics community and the world at large. Although she made many contributions to the world of mathematics, many of her contributions were through ideas and papers her students produced. Hermann Klaus Hugo Weyl said of her in his memorial address, "Her significance for algebra cannot be read entirely from her own papers, she had great stimulating power and many of her suggestions took shape only in the works of her pupils and co-workers."

Contributed by Nora Rayl

References:

  1. Association for Women in Mathematics. (2000). Emmy Noether (1882-1935). Retrieved June 6, 2000.
  2. Osen, Lynn, M. Women in Mathematics. (pp. 141-152.) MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1974.
  3. Perl, Teri. Math Equals: Biographies of Women Mathematicians + Related Activities. (pp. 173-194.) Addison-Wesley, Menlo Park, California. 1978.
  4. Taylor, Mandie. (1998). Emmy Noether. Agnes Scott College. Retrieved June 6, 2000.
  5. University of St. Andrews, School of Mathematics and Statistics, Scotland. Emmy Noether. Retrieved June 9, 2000.

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