Amalie "Emmy" Noether
Emmy was born to a Jewish family in Germany, and was the daughter of noted mathematician and algebraic scholar Max Noether. In her early years, she did not stand out academically, and was certified to teach English and French.
As one of two women students in a university of almost a thousand students, Emmy excelled at mathematics, and upon graduation taught at the same university as her father for seven years without pay, as women were largely excluded from academic positions. She also delivered her father’s lectures when he was too ill to teach. When invited to join the mathematics department at another University, faculty objections forced her to lecture under a male colleague’s name.
When the Nazis dismissed Jews from University positions in 1933, Noether moved to the US to teach and write. She died following complications after surgery for an ovarian cyst at age 53.
Lived: 1882 - 1935 (Germany, U.S.A.)
Why She Matters
Noether’s Theorem is considered as important as the Theory of Relativity and the Pythagorean Theorem, and is the backbone on which all of modern physics is built.
Putting her work into a historical context, Emmy Noether contributed greatly to her field at a time when mathematics underwent a profound revolution, in spite of academic and other restrictions put on women academics and Jews during the rise of Nazi Germany
Developed “profound and beautiful” theories of rings, fields, and algebras that cleared a path towards the discovery of new algebraic patterns that had previously been obscured
She was widely published and generous with her ideas, being credited with several lines of foundational research published by other mathematicians, even in fields far removed from her main work
In 1935, the year of Emmy Noether's death, Albert Einstein wrote in a letter to the New York Times, "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." This sentiment was echoed by other prominent mathematicians of her era
Leaving a Legacy
Overcoming dominant cultural biases towards gender and ethnicity, Emmy Noether persisted in the development of her academic prowess and made revolutionary contributions to Higher Mathematics that are both foundational and evolutionary for current and future mathematicians, including the hunt for the Higgs boson “God Particle”
The Association for Women in Mathematics holds an annual Noether Lecture to honor women in mathematics
Various schools, university buildings/departments/institutes, as well as a moon crater and asteroid have been named after her