Amalie Emmy Noether was a revolutionary in the field of mathematics. She is known for her work in abstract algebra, ring theory, and Noether’s theorem. She was born today, March 23, in 1882 in Erlangen, Germany, daughter of Max Noether (1844–1921), a prominent mathematics professor.
As a girl, she attended a school for girls where she studied foreign languages, sewing, and cooking. We’ll get to that later.
In 1904 she enrolled in University to study mathematics, the only woman among 46 male students. She was the second woman ever to earn a doctorate at the University of Erlangen, with her thesis on invariant theory. However, her career was hindered by her pro-Soviet politics, anti-semitism, and opposition to women taking professorships, and Noether never drew a regular University salary. She was known as a radical, a member of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany, who was unapologetically political and “hated war and chauvinism in all its forms and with her whole being.”
Mathematicians Felix Klein and David Hilbert established a “centre of excellence” for mathematics in Göttingen, where Emmy was the first woman to receive a teaching license, but she received no salary. In 1932, Emmy Noether and Emil Artin were awarded the prestigious Ackermann-Teubner Memorial Prize for arithmetic and algebra. Just one year later, the Nazis revoked her teaching license. She was invited to teach in the United States as a visiting professor for a year, at the women’s college Bryn Mawr. She also lectured at Princeton. In 1935, Emmy Noether died unexpectedly during surgery at Bryn Mawr Hospital.
The number theorist Olga Taussky-Todd said of Noether, “not everybody liked [Noether], and not everybody trusted that her achievements were what they were later accepted to be. She irritated people by bragging about them.” However, she also had her fans. Albert Einstein was noted to remark of Noether, “In the judgement of the most competent living mathematicians, Fräulein Noether was the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began.”
Emmy enjoyed good debate and good food. Taussky-Todd recalled that during a dinner, Emmy talked constantly and “…gesticulated violently when eating. This kept her left hand busy too, for she spilled her food constantly and wiped it off from her dress, completely unperturbed.”
What did Emmy eat? Well, absent a menu, we can narrow it down. She studied cooking, as all young girls did at school, in Bavaria in the late 19th century. She likely made and ate traditional Bavarian dishes. I’ve chosen one that won’t be too messy during a lively dinner debate- though I suggest using a napkin nonetheless. As Noether could tell you though, a dress will do fine.