Emmy Noether

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Emmy Noether
23 March 1882
Erlangen, Germany
14 April 1935
Bryn Mawr, United States

Emmy Noether (March 23 1882April 14 1935) was one of the most talented mathematicians of the early 20th century, with penetrating insights that she used to develop elegant abstractions which she formalized beautifully.

She was born Amalie Noether in Erlangen, Bavaria, Germany. Her father, Max Noether, was a distinguished mathematician and a professor at Erlangen. She did not show any early precocity at mathematics — as a teenager she was more interested in music and dancing.

Although Erlangen did not allow women to enroll, Emmy was able to audit classes. When Erlangen permitted women to enroll in 1904, Emmy enrolled as a mathematics student. She received her doctorate in 1907 under Paul Gordan, and rapidly built a world-wide reputation. She went to Göttingen in 1915, but the University of Göttingen refused to let her teach, and her colleague, David Hilbert, had to advertise her courses in the university's prospectus under his own name. A long controversy ensued, with her opponents asking what the country's soldiers would think when they returned home and were expected to learn at the feet of a woman. Allowing her on the faculty would also mean letting her vote in the academic senate. Said Hilbert, "I do not see that the sex of the candidate is against her admission as a Privatdozent. After all, the university senate is not a bathhouse." She was finally admitted to the faculty in 1919.

Edmund Landau declined to describe her as the daughter of Max Noether; rather "Max Noether was the father of Emmy Noether. Emmy is the origin of coordinates in the Noether family."

A Jew, Noether was forced to flee Nazi Germany in 1933 and joined the faculty at Bryn Mawr in the United States. She died at Bryn Mawr in 1935.


She made very significant contributions to mathematics and theoretical physics. In mathematics, she worked on the theory of invariants and non-commutative algebras. In physics, she arrived at a very crucial and beautiful result known as Noether's theorem, which translated statements of invariance with respect to generalized transformations of physical systems, called symmetries by physicists, into conservation laws. The results of Noether's theorem are part of the fundamentals of modern physics, which is substantially based on the properties of symmetries.

In 1921, Noether introduced the ascending chain condition for ideals in a commutative ring, and proved the existence of primary decompositions for such rings (a result known as the Lasker-Noether theorem). Rings satisfying the ascending chain condition on ideals are now known as Noetherian rings.


  • Gottfried E. Noether, "Emmy Noether (1882-1935)," in Louise S. Grinstein and Paul J. Campbell: Women of Mathematics: A Bibliographic Sourcebook (New York, Greenwood Press), 1987, pp. 165-170.
  • Dick, Auguste. 1981. Emmy Noether 1882-1935. Translated by H.I. Blocher. Boston: Birkhauser.
  • Brewer, James, and Smith, Martha (eds.). 1981. Emmy Noether: A Tribute to Her Life and Work. New York: Marcel Dekker.

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