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Noether, Emmy (Amalie)

mathematics erlangen algebra university

[noe ter] (1882–1935) German mathematician of distinction.

The daughter of Max Noether, professor of mathematics at Erlangen, Emmy Noether was a member of a talented family; her three brothers were scientists and her mother a musician. She was allowed to attend lectures in mathematics and foreign languages (she planned to become a teacher) as a non-matriculated auditor at the University of Erlangen (1900–02). In 1903 she moved to Göttingen to specialize in mathematics, but almost immediately the University of Erlangen changed its policy and allowed women to matriculate, so she returned there in 1904. She studied at Erlangen under Paul Gordan (1837–1912), a family friend, and gained a PhD summa cum laude in 1907 for a dissertation on algebraic invariants. Paid employment was impossible and from 1908–15 she occasionally lectured at the university for her father. In 1911 Ernst Fischer visited the university and introduced her to the ideas of the ‘new’ algebra.

After the retirement of her father and Gordan and the death of her mother in 1915, invited her to Göttingen. After 7 years she was given the title of ‘unofficial associate professor’ and later a small salary. She applied her knowledge of invariants to problems Hilbert and were considering and was able to provide an elegant pure mathematical formulation to aspects of general theory of relativity. She taught at Göttingen 1922–33, with visiting professorships at Moscow (1928–9) and Frankfurt (1930). In April 1933 she and other Jewish professors were dismissed. Through the efforts of she was offered a visiting professorship at Bryn Mawr College in the USA, and she worked at Bryn Mawr and at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. In 1935 she had surgery for an ovarian cyst and died 4 days later.

Emmy Noether’s most important contributions to mathematics were in the area of abstract algebra. Weyl divided her career into three periods: relative dependency 1908–19; investigations around the theory of ideals 1920–6, when she was influenced by the work of and profoundly changed the appearance of algebra; and non-commutative algebras 1927–35. Her work was original and creative, and inspired her successors in abstract algebra to create a ‘Noether school’.

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