Emmy Noether 1882-1935
The year is 1964 and there is a huge exhibition in New York City titled
`World’s fair’. There is an entire hall dedicated to Mathematics in this
exhibition. In the display is a poster almost 13 feet long, giving a brief
survey of the history and development of mathematics. But why are
we beginning our biographical essay on Emmy Noether with the
exhibition in New York a little less than three decades after her death.
Watch the movie below and you will know the connection. Please click
on the picture below to start this short movie.

Below is a small part of the text accompanying her entry in the poster:
Emmy Noether, daughter of the mathematician Max, was often called “Der Noether”, as
if she were a man. Yet her Göttingen professorship carried no salary, and Hilbert had to
fight to get her—a woman—in at all….
So what do we know about Emmy Noether? She was the daughter of
a mathematician and must have done enough in mathematics to have
been the only woman in a poster describing the development of
mathematics and mathematicians over a period of over 900 years.
David Hilbert, one the most famous mathematicians of that era
seems to have had to fight to get Emmy Noether the right to teach at
Göttingen University, that too, without any salary. Let us discover
more about this apparent paradox by studying the life story of
`
Emmy Noether’
.
Early Life:
Amalie Emmy Noether was born on 23 March 1882 in a provincial town called Erlangen
located in the southern part of Germany. She was the eldest of four children born to Ida
and Max Noether. Max Noether was then a Professor with limited administrative powers
at the University of Erlangen.
The Noether family background previously had been of
well-to-do Jewish tradesmen dealing with the iron business.
Of her three younger brothers, Alfred, Fritz and Gustav Robert, Fritz became a
mathematician.
It is a credit to Emmy Noether’s contribution to mathematics in general and abstract
algebra in particular that both Max and Fritz are now referred to as Emmy Noether’s
father and brother respectively.

Emmy attended a local girls’ school as was the norm, tried learning the piano with
minimal success and did not particularly distinguish herself in mathematics at school. She
seems to have liked dancing and was known to be `clever, friendly and likeable’.
Student period at Erlangen and Göttingen Universities:
On finishing school at the age of 18, Emmy took examinations which would have
allowed her the right to teach modern languages at “Institutions for the Education and
Instruction of Females”. But instead, Emmy decided to continue her studies at the
University. During that time, it was most uncommon in Germany for women to attend
lectures at the University. Indeed, they were allowed to listen to lectures only if the
Professors gave them permission and there was no question of being allowed to take
examinations. She audited courses at the university in her hometown for about two years
before passing `graduation examinations’ (at the

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