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review 2018-11-15 08:44
Emmy Noether, Auguste Dick
Emmy Noether, 1882 1935 - Auguste Dick

Emmy Noether was one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th Century and the greatest algebraist (except, maybe, Andrew Wiles?). She revolutionised the approach to her field and, entirely by accident, proved a connection between symmetry laws and conservation laws which has profound consequences for physics. Despite this, she is much less famous than many of her contemporaries, such as Hilbert, Weyl and Klein. Proper recognition of her talents and acheivements, outside the abstract algebra community is only just beginning.

 

She lived at a time of widespread institutional and individual sexism and anti-Semetism and at that point in history, in the worst possible country for a female Jew - Germany. Anybody who came into close acquaintance with her realised her unique genius but, despite their best efforts, she was never able to obtain a proper, permanent academic post and, with the rise of the Nazis, she had to emigrate to the USA in order to carry on working in any academic capacity.

 

She died suddenly and unexpectedly of complications from what should have been a routine surgical procedure at the height of her mathematical powers, a very unusual state of affiars as most mathematicians do their best work before they are 30.

This biography seems to be written by a mathematician for other mathematicians. The details of Noether's life are sketchy, because there isn't much documentary evidence and there is no attempt to explain what Noether's acheivements were to people without a very advanced education in algebra. There are, however, reprints of three obituaries appended to the main text and one of these (Weyl's) takes on the task with moderate success - but still probably unintelligible to people without a significant mathematical background.

 

I think people should read this book regradless of their level of mathematical education and just skim the technical stuff if it seems like gibberish in order to understand what an extraordinary talent Noether had and what she, with unfailing positivity, had to put up with in order to do her lastingly influential, pioneering work.

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text 2018-11-14 09:04
Reading progress update: I've read 152 out of 193 pages.
Emmy Noether, 1882 1935 - Auguste Dick

The second obit. is by Herman Weyl; he attempts to explain what Noether's mathematics was actually about and why her methods were revolutionary. I could have done with reading it before the actual biography... It's still going to be impenetrable to anyone without a thorough foundation in mathematics, though.

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text 2018-11-08 03:55
Reading progress update: I've read 112 out of 193 pages.
Emmy Noether, 1882 1935 - Auguste Dick

The first obit. is by van der Waerden, a close colleague. It focuses on Noether's mathematical output and outlook and is impenetrable to me and everybody else without an advanced education in modern abstract algebra. What does penetrate is that she revolutionised her field by taking a radical approach, pushing abstraction way beyond previous limits. Her lectures were mad; she'd be working them out as she went along, attempting to develop new theories, rather than repeating established material; few could follow what she was doing.

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text 2018-11-07 03:01
Reading progress update: I've read 100 out of 193 pages.
Emmy Noether, 1882 1935 - Auguste Dick

Main bio is over: three lengthy obituaries remain.

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text 2018-11-06 00:54
Reading progress update: I've read 78 out of 193 pages.
Emmy Noether, 1882 1935 - Auguste Dick

Noether, being Jewish, rapidly suffers at the hands of the Nazis when her right to teach is withdrawn. Soon she is on a boat to the USA.

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