Women in History – 14 April
Emmy Noether; official name Amalie Emmy Noether; (23 March 1882 – 14 April 1935) was a German Jewish mathematician known for her landmark
contributions to abstract algebra and theoretical physics.
She was described by Pavel Alexandrov, Albert Einstein, Jean Dieudonné, Hermann Weyl, and Norbert Wiener as the most important woman in the history of mathematics. As one of the leading mathematicians of her time, she developed the theories of rings, fields, and algebras. In physics, Noether’s theorem explains the connection between symmetry and conservation laws.
Noether was born to a Jewish family in the Franconian town of Erlangen; her father was a mathematician. She studied mathematics at the University of Erlangen, where her father lectured. After completing her dissertation in 1907 under the supervision of Paul Gordan, she worked at the Mathematical Institute of Erlangen without pay for seven years.
In 1915, she was invited by David Hilbert and Felix Klein to join the mathematics department at the University of Göttingen. She spent four years lecturing under Hilbert’s name. Her habilitation was approved in 1919, allowing her to obtain the rank of Privatdozent. Noether remained a leading member of the Göttingen mathematics department until 1933; her students were sometimes called the “Noether boys”.
In 1924, Dutch mathematician B. L. van der Waerden joined her circle and soon became the leading expositor of Noether’s ideas: her work was the foundation for the second volume of his influential 1931 textbook, Moderne Algebra. By the time of her plenary address at the 1932 International Congress of Mathematicians in Zürich, her algebraic acumen was recognized around the world. The following year, Germany’s Nazi government dismissed Jews from university positions, and Noether moved to the United States to take up a position at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. In 1935 she underwent surgery for an ovarian cyst and, despite signs of a recovery, died four days later at the age of 53.