Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Emmy Noether

So this is a pretty late blog post but I still thought I'd share it with you guys. A while back we talked about Sophie Germain and her contributions in mathematics. The biggest thing that stuck with me about her life was how difficult it was for her as a female mathematician. She went so far as signing all her papers as a guy just in case people wouldn't respect her findings if they found out she was a girl. That got me thinking about how many female mathematicians I know about, where I came to the startling realization that I know absolutely no female mathematicians. Because of this, I thought it would be interesting to read up on some and pick one to share with all of you.

Emmy Noether was a German mathematician born in 1882. Growing up, her father was a mathematician at the University of Erlangen where she attended many classes. After finishing at the University, she went on to work at the Mathematical Institute of Erlangen. She worked there for seven years without pay, similar to many other women of the time, then in 1915 she was invited to join the mathematics department at the University of Gottingen. Most historians break down her contributions to mathematics into three different periods of times (Wikipedia).

In this first period (1908-1919), she worked in many different fields of mathematics. One of which is in algebraic invariant theory. Some of her work in this field included expanding off the ideas of Paul Gordon, "the king of invariant theory," by making it possible to study the relationships between different invariants. Also during this first period, she worked a lot in physics. With her work in physics, she proved her Noether's first theorem which solved a problem with general relativity, a geometrical theory of gravity (Wikipedia).

During her next two periods, she made a ton of contributions to abstract algebra. First, she published a paper in which gives one of the first ever formal definitions of a commutative ring. Also in this paper is the Lasker-Noether theorem which basically generalizes the fundamental theorem of arithmetic. She is also credited with the ideas that serve as the foundations for algebraic topology (Wikipedia).

Overall, I found it rather interesting to learn a little more about someone who had seemingly endless contributions to basically every field in mathematics and is yet never even mentioned in any math class I've ever had. I know its hard to recognize every single mathematician, male or female, but I do think classes should at least try to incorporate some of the leading females of the time as well as their male counterparts every once in a while. At least after writing this blog my count of how many female mathematicians I can name has gone from zero to two.

1 comment:

  1. Nice. I'd like to hear a bit more about her life or her math for complete, but she is a great choice for more women mathematicians. To see some current, there is a lecture series dedicated to her at the big math meetings each year.
    Other C's +