Emmy Noether was a force in mathematics — and knew it. She was fully confident in her capabilities and ideas. Yet a century on, those ideas, and their contribution to science, often go unnoticed. Most physicists are aware of her fundamental theorem, which puts symmetry at the heart of physical law. But how many know anything of her and her life?
A conference in London this week, the Noether Celebration, hopes to change that. It’s a welcome move. In a world where young scientists look for inspirational female role models, it is hard to think of a more deserving candidate.
Noether was born in 1882 in Erlangen, Germany. Her parents wanted all their children to get doctorates, so although many universities at the time did not formally accept women, she went. After graduation, sexist regulations prevented Noether from getting jobs in academia. Undaunted, for many years she lectured in Erlangen and, from 1915, at the University of Göttingen — often for free.