Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Emmy Noether

Einstein couldn't have proved the conservation of energy without the work of Emmy Noether. This was a German woman born 1882. Emmy Noether's father taught her maths, and in 1907, she was awarded a doctorate - only the second doctorate awarded to a woman by a German university.

In the same decade, Einstein was working out his theory of general relativity but had problems still to solve. He presented theory and problems in 1915, convincing Hilbert and Klein of the merits of his work. They involved Emmy Noether, who within months produced a brilliant paper that resolved one of the issues of general relativity.

Emmy Noether impacted lives yet she had to beat a way through prejudices against women and Jews in order to use her mathematical talents.

But achievement is not due only to women on their own. Emmy Noether had a skilled father who recognised and nurtured her talents. She had Hilbert and Klein who were ready to work with her and Einstein who appreciated her work. Men and womens' work complement each other. I'm doing what I do because of encouragement from my male staff tutor as well as my female regional manager and my male and female supervisors. I'm glad and grateful that expectations of both genders are now higher and broader. Without those expectations, I'd have no chance of achieving my doctorate.

Source: Derbyshire, J, Unknown Quantity: a real and imaginary history of algebra, 2006

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was trolling through a list of Ada Lovelace day posts, and was please to find a reference to Dr. Noether. Her work, confuses, amazes, and enlightens physicists to this day. One of the undersung hero of the modern physics.