Department of Energy

Five Fast Facts About Mathematician Emmy Noether

March 26, 2015

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Mathematician Emmy Noether, who made great contributions to theoretical physics, is this week's Women's History Month honoree. | Photo in Public Domain.

Mathematician Emmy Noether, who made great contributions to theoretical physics, is this week's Women's History Month honoree. | Photo in Public Domain.

It’s Women’s History Month on Energy.gov. During the month of March we’re highlighting the great contributions to science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM fields made by women throughout history, as well as taking a look at fascinating work that women are doing in STEM fields today.

Emmy Noether was a groundbreaking German mathematician who made immense contributions to both algebra and physics in the face of great adversity. She is best known for Noether’s Theorem, which had far-reaching consequences for theoretical physics. This past Monday -- March 23, 2015 -- would’ve been her 133rd birthday, when she was honored with a Google Doodle.

Here are some other facts about Emmy Noether you might not know:

  1. Noether studied at University of Erlangen, but was only allowed to audit classes rather than participate fully because of her gender.
  2. When Noether began teaching at the University of Gottingen, her lectures were often advertised under one of her male colleagues’ names and said she would provide “assistance.
  3. Noether would never use lesson plans for her classes, but instead treated them as a time for spontaneous discussion to work out difficult mathematical problems. These discussions were so groundbreaking and thought provoking that the class notes from some of her students formed the basis for textbooks.
  4. In 1933, after the Nazis fired all Jewish professors, Noether came to America, where she taught at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania until her death in 1935 at the age of 53.
  5. Upon hearing about her death, Albert Einstein wrote to the New York Times, calling Noether “the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began.” Some of her work formed the basis for his Theory of Relativity.