Emmy Noether


(Amelia) Emmy Noether, 1882 - 1935, Germany
Mathematician, Physicist.

Emmy Noether was the most gifted and innovative mathematical genius in the 19th - 20th  century. Einstein and other leading mathematicians at the time found her work extraordinary. She made groundbreaking discoveries in abstract algebra, theoretical Physics, and a wide range of other areas.

Emmy, her preferred name, was the first of a family of 4, and lived in Erlangen, Germany.

As a child, she showed aptitude and ability in European languages, but later she decided what she really wanted to do was mathematics.

At the time universities would not allow women to do mathematics courses, although eventually the Erlangen university, where her father taught, allowed her to sit-in and be an observer. After some time, the university permitted her to sit some undergraduate examinations. As a consequence of the results, she was allowed to enroll in courses and then eventually as a Ph.D. student.

Even after getting her Ph.D., she could not get a paid position and for a time taught without any payment, 

Because of her isolation from the main line of mathematics as taught at the universities, she developed completely new topics, in particular, abstract algebra and some areas in theoretical Physics, as well as making contributions to other topics in mathematics.

Nevertheless, her major contribution to mathematics and physics was in establishing the link between physical symmetry and conservation laws.

This is Noether's theorem.

It says if parts of the system change, their sum, the total energy of a system, will remain constant over time.

Einstein was very impressed with her work, and said she was the “most significant creative mathematician ever”, and Weyl said, “She was a great mathematician, the greatest her sex has ever produced”.

In 1915, after Einstein published his general theory of relativity, she was invited to Gottingen university by David Hilbert and Felix Klein to join the Department of mathematics and to teach the mathematics used by Einstein in his theory of General Relativity.

Her importance to modern theoretical physics also cannot be overestimated, and yet her name seldom appears in physics courses, or in the index of physics textbooks.

By 1927 she was publishing her work on non-commutative algebras, one of the most important contributions to mathematics.

By 1930 she was the major contributor to modern mathematics at the University, but by 1933 and with the rise of Hitler, all Jews, including Noether, were expelled from teaching at universities in Germany.

Emmy Noether at sea

She left Germany and found a professorial position at Bryn Mawr University, Pennsylvania.
Her capabilities and what she had to offer were very much appreciated in the US. One of her tasks was to give lectures periodically at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.

Emmy Noether died 2 years later, after an operation for an ovarian cyst.
She was just 53 years old

Click here to acknowledge an extraordinary mathematician

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