Birth Date: 23rd March 1882 

Death Date: 14th April 1935

Location: Noetherstraße, 91058 Erlangen, Germany/University of Erlangen

Monument Type: Historic/Residence

Walking into a math class can be a frightening experience for anyone! The formulas, calculations, and sometimes incredibly complex thinking make the thought of stepping into the classroom scary for many. Now imagine, that everyone in there is the opposite sex. That makes the situation much scarier, but for Emmy Noether, born on March 23rd, 1882, it was nothing she could not handle. Her father, Max Nother, worked as an already well-established mathematician in Germany, so she attributes much of her competence in the field of mathematics to his early guidance and encouragement.

As a child, Emmy was always reasonably confident in the classroom, but her grades were never stellar. She attended all of her classes and was happy to be educated, but did not expect herself to ever be deeply entrenched in academia for the rest of her life! After graduating, she was encouraged by friends and family to teach English and French, for she had shown early proficiency in the subjects and was comfortable speaking in both languages. In 1900, at the age of 18, she passed the language teaching exam and became qualified to teach languages in all-girls schools. While a steady and stable job, Emmy sought something more and decided to shift from that position to pursue something she was more passionate about—mathematics.

Portrait of Emmy Noether, around 1900. Publisher: Mathematical Association of America.

Despite her perhaps average math marks in early childhood, friends reported that she always had a quick wit and enjoyed solving logical problems or puzzles. At the age of 20, she was permitted to audit a class at the University of Erlangen, meaning she could attend lectures and complete coursework but was not awarded a grade. The university was where her father taught, yet she was not initially allowed to enroll because she was a woman. Emy nonetheless persisted, and against all odds, graduated with a degree in mathematics in 1903. She continued her education after that, eventually earning a Ph.D. for her, On Complete Systems of Invariants for Ternary Biquadratic Forms, in 1907. Following this triumph, she went on to develop Noether’s Theorem in abstract algebra, with Einstien later calling her the “most influential woman in the history of mathematics.”

Realizing that the rest of the world offered different types of opportunities than those present in Germany, Emmy emigrated to the United States in 1930 and spent time at Bryn Mawr College, a women’s school near Philidelphia, PA. She lived in the surrounding area for a few years and underwent a brief stint teaching at Princeton University in New Jersey, but eventually developed an ovarian cyst and returned to Bryn Mawr to seek treatment. On the 10th of April, 1935, Emmy underwent surgery to have the cyst removed, and died four days later due to unknown complications. She was buried under the library at Bryn Mawr College, and mathematicians across the globe mourned her loss.


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