Amalie Emmy Noether was born in 1882 in Germany. She was named after her Mother and Grandmother thus, went by her middle name for most of her life. Originally, Noether aspired to become an English and French teacher at a girl’s school in Germany “where she was born and raised” (Lee). Those wishes dissipated and she eventually decided to follow in her father’s footsteps a “self-taught mathematician” (Lee).

This was obviously difficult considering “at that time, women weren’t allowed to enroll in university-level math classes – they could only audit with the permission of the professor” (Lee). Noether became “theoretically, the most important woman in physics” (Lee). Due to the conventions of the time, she “spent two years auditing classes at the University of Erlangan” (Lee) and continued to do so with “no credit and no degree” (Lee). Noether excelled so much on her exams however they decided to award “her a bachelor’s degree anyway” (Lee). Following this, she continued to obtain a PHD “with a dissertation on algebraic invariants” (Lee). Noether was required to work at the university for seven years “in order to find employment in her field of expertise” (Lee) with no payment or title.

Between completing her prescribed work at the university, Noether worked on her own research “primarily in abstract algebra” (Lee) which was a fairly new field at that time and was eventually “invited to the University of Göttingen” (Lee) to teach Einstein’s theories to the students and staff there “using math from her dissertation” (Lee). Of course this was objected considering she was a woman but also Jewish at a time close to the beginning of World War II. A few faculty members and even “Einstein himself” (Lee) made a strong case in her favour and so she was “granted permission to lecture” (Lee). She was still not permitted salary or proper title working “under the name of the male professors who has invited her” (Lee). Throughout her years there, Noether created Noether’s Theorem, a fundamental theorem in theoretical physics and “is considered as important as Einstein’s theory of relativity” (Lee). She also redefined how mathematicians approach and teach their work and she taught students to understand everything in more simple terms. Noether’s theory is said to be “the backbone of modern physics” (Lee) still to this day.

References:

Lee, Mackenzi, and Petra Eriksson. Bygone Badass Broads: 52 Forgotten Women Who Changed the World. Abrams Image, 2018.

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