Born In: Erlangen, Bavaria, Germany
Emmy Noether was a German mathematician best known for discovering the Noether Theorem. Born to a mathematician father, Emmy was interested in mathematics from an early age and also exhibited acumen in the field. However, she was expected to pursue arts which were more suited for women at that time. Her interests led her to enrol at the University of Erlangen, where her father was already a faculty member. She was hired without a pay or title as a professor. She moved to the faculty of the University of Gottingen after one of her fellow mathematicians insisted on the same. Following support from some other mathematicians she began working on the Noether’s Theorem, which is now known as one of the most important concepts in understanding the symmetry in the universe. Despite a worldwide appreciation for her work, she still remained an unpaid lecturer at the university. In spite of facing several professional and personal difficulties, she worked on abstract algebra and emerged as a pioneer in the subject. After the rise of Nazi Germany, she moved to the United States and taught mathematics there until the end of her life.
Also Known As: Amalie Emmy Noether
Died At Age: 53
father: Max Noether
mother: Ida Kauffman
Born Country: Germany
place of death: Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, United States
Notable Alumni: University Of Erlangen-Nuremberg
education: University Of Erlangen-Nuremberg
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Emmy Noether was born Amalie Emmy Noether, on March 23, 1882, in Bavaria, German Empire. She was the daughter of Max Noether and Ida Kauffman. She was born the first among four children in the family.
Her father was an esteemed mathematician and it was due to him that Emmy became interested in studying mathematics at an early age. However, she was not good at academics and faltered in many subjects at school. She was, however, a friendly person and clever and she somehow climbed through the grades. She was also described as being nearsighted, which further offered her a little trouble in academics.
She showed a fine logical acumen at an early age when she was a child. During a children’s party that she attended, she solved a brain teaser within minutes. These were early signs of her natural love for mathematics.
However, being a girl, she was not expected to do well in academics. She was taught to cook and clean. She also attended piano and dancing classes. However, she had no interest in these pursuits.
Following her high school education, she enrolled at the University of Erlangen. However, despite the fact that her father was a professor at the same college, she was denied admission there as she was a girl. By 1900 she was a certified scholar in teaching French and English at schools and universities. However, she desired to pursue her true interest, which was mathematics.
She couldn’t get admission at the University of Erlangen. In 1903, she cleared an entrance exam and was enrolled at the University of Gottingen. However, within a year, women became eligible to study in the Erlangen and in 1904, she transferred there and continued her mathematical studies. In 1907, she became a PhD in maths.
At that time, female mathematicians had no support to work independently. Hence, following her PhD from the university, she began working at the Mathematical Institute of Erlangen as a professor. She was not paid to work there and wasn’t given a title. She mostly worked there as a substitute professor if her father was too sick to teach on days. But the institute was home to some of the best mathematicians of that era and she hoped to work alongside a few of them.
It was during her tenure as a professor at the Erlangen that she met Ernst Otto Fischer, who was known for his works in algebra. Emmy began working with Fischer on theoretical algebra, for which she would become famous. The two became close and discussed mathematical theories for hours. After going home from the university, Emmy would send postcards to Fischer about her mathematical ideas to keep the talks going. She also got in touch with other famous mathematicians of that time that recognized her talents and invited her to teach at the University of Gottingen in 1915.
However, she was not still accepted by the university management and faculty as women were considered inferior to men. Also suffering from family tragedy, Emmy began teaching at the University. Her lectures were advertised under a male professor’s name. Emmy was shown as just an assistant. But within a few years, Emmy’s academic work on the Noether Theorem would prove all her naysayers wrong as she managed to enthral the mathematical world through her findings.
In the early years of the 20th century, Albert Einstein worked on the Theory of Relativity, which became one of the most important theories in the studies of physics and mathematics around the world. It stated that symmetries were the keys to understanding the new theories to describe the workings of nature. The theorem had a great impact on classical and quantum physics.
In 1918, a year before the war ended, Emmy came up with the Noether Theorem. It stated that identifying symmetry in the universe will allow the associated conversion law to make accurate mathematical calculations. This theorem was appreciated by Albert Einstein himself who called her one of the greatest female mathematicians of all time. She was hired as a proper professor at the University, although still without any pay. She was still supported by her family to continue her academic work.
World War I ended in 1919 and it was also the time for a social revolution in Germany. Women had become more accepted in the intellectual circles. Emmy also benefitted from this revolution
Following the discovery of Noether’s Theorem, she studied abstract algebra, a field in which her father also worked. Her papers and lectures on abstract algebra are known as some of the most important works in the field at that time. Along with her own research on the subject, she also inspired many of her contemporaries to conduct research on the same subject.
She was also known for allowing several of her students and colleagues to work on her ideas, thus receiving credits for the work done by her.
Her real work in the field of abstract algebra began in 1920. Along with another esteemed mathematician named W. Schmeidler, she published an academic paper on the theory of ideals. In their research, they defined left and right ideals in a ring. The paper titled Theory of Ideals in Ring Domains received national and international accolades.
She held the position in the mathematics department of Gottingen until 1933. Her students were called ‘Noether’s Boys’.
However, despite working hard, her ideas were not receiving the desired popularity due to her being a woman. A Dutch mathematician, named B.L. van der Waerden was a huge admirer of Emmy. He joined her circle in the early 1920s and became the biggest expositor of her ideas to the outside world. Her works also formed the basis of his influential book titled Moderne Algebra.
She was at the peak of her popularity in the early 1930s, also owing to her appearance at the International Congress of Mathematicians which took place in Zurich. By then she was a well-known face for her major work in the field of abstract algebra.
However, her being a Jew caused her troubles when Nazi Party came to power in the early 1930s. She was removed from her position. She later moved to the United States and taught mathematics at the Bryn Mawr College and the Princeton Institute of Advanced Studies.
Emmy Noether never married. Although she was rumoured to have a few love affairs, she never came out in the open about them.
In April 1935, it was discovered that she had a tumour in her pelvis while she was living and teaching in the USA. A few more tumours were discovered but were removed. However, on April 14, 1935, she suddenly got a high fever and died. It was later said that she passed away due to some unidentified viral infection. She was 53 years old at the time of her demise.
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