By Paul Halpern
One of the great intellectual heroes of the 20th century was German-Jewish mathematician Emmy Noether. Born in 1882, she was remarkable in that her accomplishments in the field of abstract algebra emerged despite considerable prejudice against her, first because of being a woman, and second because of her ethnic background. She taught in the 1920s and early 1930s at the University of Goettingen. Then in 1933, with the rise of the Nazi regime, an act was passed “The Law of the Restoration of the Civil Service” forbidding those of Jewish background to teach in Germany, unless they had been World War I veterans (a concession made to placate Hindenburg). Noether fled Germany and obtained a position at Bryn Mawr College in the US. She died two years later.
Einstein wrote a beautiful obituary about her in the New York Times:
“In the judgment of the most competent living mathematicians, Fräulein Noether was the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began. In the realm of algebra, in which the most gifted mathematicians have been busy for centuries, she discovered methods which have proved of enormous importance in the development of the present-day younger generation of mathematicians. Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas.”
-Albert Einstein, New York Times, May 1, 1935.
Emmy Noether’s grave is in a quiet, monastery-like part of Bryn Mawr campus, known as The Cloisters.
The grave marker, with her initials and years of birth and death only, is very plain and right in the pavement.
Map location (Emmy Noether’s grave, Bryn Mawr College): 101 N Merion Ave, Bryn Mawr, PA, USA
This article is adopted from a piece posted on the Philadelphia Area Center for the History of Science (PACHS) blog. Photos by Aden Halpern.
Related link: Emmy’s Noether’s birthplace in Germany by Thony Christie