Exactly one hundred years ago this year, Emmy Noether created a math formula that made a fundamental breakthrough in physics. Her discovery was equally as important to the field of physics as Einstein’s theory of relativity and it was discovered the same year. Einstein is famous for his discovery but we’ve never heard of Noether. Why?
Typically we don’t recognize or celebrate the accomplishments of women in our culture. We generally only recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of men.
“Noether’s Theorem” as it’s called today is really quite amazing. It tells physicists how to figure out conserved quantities, time translation and space translation by looking at symmetry. The formula is so remarkable that it’s still used in physics today right alongside Einstein’s formula for energy conversion.
What’s equally amazing is that Noether discovered her theory in the face of overwhelming odds. She didn’t study math or science as a young girl and she didn’t attend a college prep school. (Girls weren’t allowed to do that.) She went to a finishing school like all upper middle class girls at the time and she studied the arts. She became certified to teach English and French. After graduating from finishing school, Noether audited university math classes. (She wasn’t allowed to register for classes but she was allowed to attend them. Women weren’t allowed to go to university in those days.)
Universities eventually let women enroll and Noether earned a PhD in math but after her graduation, she worked in the field without pay or title. She didn’t join the Institute faculty either. (Women could go to university but they weren’t allowed to have a title or pay or join a university faculty.) Noether was allowed to lecture but only for free and only under the name of a male faculty member. She had to be listed as his “assistant” when she lectured.
Noether was eventually awarded the prestigious Ackermann-Teubner Memorial Prize in mathematics and in her final years, she lectured at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton as a guest lecturer.
One hundred years after Noether's and Einstein's remarkable discoveries in 1915, the world will celebrate. But we'll only celebrate Einstein's achievements. It's doubtful there will be any mention of Noether's achievements in the media during the anniversary year.
When you hear about Einstein’s accomplishments during his anniversary year, tell people that it’s Emmy Noether’s anniversary year too. Let people know she was one of the most important women in the history of the field of math and that she was one of the greatest algebraists of the century. Tell them that in spite of overwhelming odds, she introduced a formula to the world that was equally as important as Einstein’s. Tell them it’s called Noether's Theorem” and it tells physicists how to figure out conserved quantities, time translation and space translation by looking at symmetry. Tell them her formula is so amazing that it’s still used in physics today right alongside Einstein’s formula.
The accomplishments of women are just as important as the accomplishments of men. Women deserve recognition and anniversary celebrations too.
Debbie L. Kasman
Author Lotus of the Heart: Reshaping the Human and Collective Soul
- Nov 15, 2018 Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board announces first-ever student census while ignoring equity issues Nov 15, 2018
- Nov 12, 2018 Counterpoint: Ontario experience provides ample rationale for axing school boards in Nova Scotia Nov 12, 2018
- Nov 1, 2018 Education Crisis in Ontario: Trustees stay on boards even after issues arise Nov 1, 2018
- May 19, 2017 Extraordinary Experiences by Ordinary People May 19, 2017
- Mar 4, 2017 An Open Letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne and Education Minister Mitzie Hunter Mar 4, 2017
- Feb 6, 2017 Three Hidden Ways Education Contributes to Discrimination Feb 6, 2017
- January 2017
- Nov 6, 2016 I want to live in a truly inclusive world, do you? Nov 6, 2016
- Oct 31, 2016 How to Grow Up Between 20 and 60 Years Old Oct 31, 2016
- Sep 11, 2016 Atheist Minister - Say What? Sep 11, 2016
- Aug 19, 2016 Are Kids Psychic? Aug 19, 2016
- Feb 19, 2016 The Golden Age of Women Feb 19, 2016
- Sep 19, 2015 Something To Think About Sep 19, 2015
- Apr 27, 2015 Celebrating Emmy Noether…Who? Apr 27, 2015
- October 2014
- September 2014
- Jun 3, 2014 Something to Think About Jun 3, 2014
- May 2014
- April 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- Nov 28, 2013 How to Deepen your Intuition Nov 28, 2013
- Nov 22, 2013 Ten Points to Ponder (and Ten Things I Love) About Einstein Nov 22, 2013
- Nov 15, 2013 Waiting for the World to Change Nov 15, 2013
- Nov 9, 2013 A World Gone Slightly Mad Nov 9, 2013
- Nov 4, 2013 A Mother's Intuition Nov 4, 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- Aug 29, 2013 Something Worth Thinking About Aug 29, 2013
- July 2013
- May 2013