Amalie Emmy Noether is probably the most important woman in the history of mathematics and left a strong footprint in modern algebra. She did so facing strong resistance caused by the fact that she was a woman, Jewish, and on the left politically. Emmy Noether was born at Erlangen in 1882 and started her studies at Göttingen. She returned to Erlangen after one semester until she received her PhD in mathematics there.
By that time Göttingen was the central place for mathematics worldwide and David Hilbert and Felix Klein invited her to return there and to achieve a habilitation – the highest university degree and base for becoming a professor. She came in 1915, but the habilitation was denied multiple times as women weren’t permitted to achieve this. Even Albert Einstein requested to change this, a copy of his letter can be seen today at the Paulinerkirche of Göttingen. In 1919 she finally became the first habilitated woman in Germany.
‘But gentlemen, a university is not a swimming pool!’– David Hilbert
Emmy Noether was working at the Mathematisches Institut at the Bunsenstraße, a building still today used by the faculty. She was living in a house at the Friedländer Weg which she had to leave after ten years as the student association residing at this house didn’t want to have a left-wing Jewish person in the same building. Emmy Noether had to move to the Stegemühlenweg where a commemorative plaque remembers her. But she was only living there for one year (the plaque is somehow wrong) as she had to emigrate to the US in 1933.
Emmy Noether died in 1935 at Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, caused by a medical procedure. At Göttingen she is remember by the commemorative plaque at her former residence, by a room at the Mathematisches Institut and an image of her at a modern building at the Robert-Gernhardt-Platz (where once the indoor swimming pool was located). There have been ideas to rename my school (the Hainberg-Gymnasium) at the Friedländer Weg and also to rename the Georg-August-Universität. But nothing happened. At least a street is named after her: the Emmy-Noether-Weg at the city quarter Weende. In life and after death she didn’t receive the recognition she deserved.
Amalie Emmy Noether at Göttingen
Altes mathematisches Institut, Bunsenstraße 3
Main residence: Friedländer Weg 57
Later residence: Stegemühlenweg 51 (commemorative plaque attached here)