The Relationship between Emmy Noether and The God Patent’s Emmy Nutter
The character Emmy Nutter was loosely based on the turn-of-the-century mathematician Emmy Noether.
The unrecognized genius of Emmy Noether By Ransom Stephens You've heard of Albert Einstein but have you heard of Emmy Noether? Emmy   Noether   made   perhaps   the   most   important   discovery   in   the   encyclopedia   of   human   understanding (There   is   a   play-by-play   description   of   Noether's   theorem   in   Emmy   Nutter’s   first   appearance   in   The   God Patent , Chapter 9 p 22). Emmy   Noether   was   a   mathematician   and   a   mentor   of   Albert   Einstein.   She   worked   alongside   and   earned the   admiration   of   some   of   the   greatest   mathematicians   of   her   time:   David   Hilbert,   Hermann   Weyl,   Herman Minkowski,   Felix   Klein,   etc.   But   since   Emmy   Noether   was   female   she   traveled   a   much   different   road   than her peers. Amalie   Noether   was   born   in   the   Kaiser's   Germany   to   a   Jewish   family.   Everyone   called   her   Emmy.   In   1900, after   receiving   her   Teaching   Certificate   -   an   acceptable   intellectual   achievement   for   a   properly   demur young   lady   -   she   decided   to   study   mathematics.   Because   she   lacked   a   y-chromosome,   she   was   not permitted   to   enroll   at   the   university.   In   fact,   the   Academic   Senate   of   the   University   of   Erlangen   recorded that "allowing coeducation would overthrow all academic order." The   outstanding   theme   of   Emmy's   life   is   that   she   pursued   her   goals   with   single-minded   determination   and not much fuss.   We   all   know   that   it   is   possible   to   get   as   good   an   education   as   we   desire   by   simply   working   through   the great   texts   in   libraries   and   attending   lectures   at   the   finest   universities.   There   are   plenty   of   empty   seats   in classes   on   Algebraic   Theory   and   it   would   be   a   rare   instructor   who   would   turn   away   a   warm   body   with   an agile   mind.   Most   of   us,   though,   won't   pursue   an   education   without   the   lure   of   a   diploma   to   document   our achievements. Since   Emmy   couldn't   register   for   classes,   she   attended   them   without   registering.   Three   years   later,   Emmy was   permitted   to   take   the   grand   exams   at   the   end   of   the   degree   program.   Of   course   she   excelled,   self- motivation of this order is rarely oriented toward unattainable goals. She   then   applied   to   the   graduate   program   and   was   one   of   the   first   women   in   Germany   accepted   in   an academic graduate program and, in 1907, was one of the first women to be awarded a Ph.D. The   natural   path   of   a   pure   mathematician   is   to   pursue   academic   research   but,   of   course,   the   very   idea   of women   faculty   at   a   major   German   university   would   not   be   entertained   for   some   years.   Emmy   responded the    way    she    had    as    a    student:    she    did    mathematical    research    anyway.    Her    Ph.D.    dissertation    had generated   the   interest   of   the   faculty   at   the   University   of   Goettingen   which,   at   the   time,   was   the   center   of the   mathematical   universe.   Shortly   after   her   parents   died,   she   took   an   unpaid   position   there   and   pursued her   interests.   She   taught   as   a   guest   lecturer   and   lived   on   her   small   inheritance   -   naturally,   her   older   brother inherited the lion's share of her parents' modest wealth. Emmy   developed   a   unique   style   of   teaching.   Rather   than   deliver   passive   lectures   to   a   silent   audience,   she would   propose   a   mathematical   question   and   invite   students   to   propose   solutions.   Unorthodox,   to   be   sure, but   soon   Emmy   could   be   seen   around   campus   trailed   by   a   group   of   students   that   would   come   to   be   known as "Noether's boys." Another   problem   Emmy   faced   in   developing   her   academic   career:   women   could   not   submit   papers   to   the academic journals. As   Emmy's   life   is   evidence   of   the   power   of   resilience,   it   is   also   a   testament   to   the   simple   pursuit   of   one's goals without care for recognition and reward. What   would   come   to   be   known   as   Noether's   Theorem   was   published   in   1916.   Noether's   Theorem   altered our   understanding   of   the   Laws   of   Nature.   Prior   to   1916,   Newton's   laws   of   motion   (including   the   alterations required   by   Einstein's   relativity)   and   the   laws   of   thermodynamics   and   electrodynamics   were   recognized   as empirical   facts,   expressions   of   how   things   work   with   no   indication   of   why.   By   showing   that   the   behavior   of matter   and   forces   is   dictated   by   the   geometry   of   the   space   and   time   that   they   occupy,   Noether's   Theorem changed the way we consider the essential fabric of reality. That    is,    Noether's    theorem    ties    what    had    been    recognized    as    simple    fact,    as    "how    things    are,"    to symmetries   in   nature.   For   example,   that   the   way   things   behave   does   not   change   with   time   requires   the   first law   of   thermodynamics:   That   the   energy   of   a   system   can   neither   be   created   nor   destroyed   but   can   merely change   form.   Similarly,   that   the   total   electric   charge   in   a   system   cannot   change   without   input/output   from outside   the   system,   results   from   an   arcane   mathematical   symmetry   (that   the   behavior   of   a   system   of charges is not altered by an overall phase shift). Noether's Theorem still plays a crucial role at the cutting edge of physics research. The   "Standard   Model   of   Particle   Physics"   rests   on   a   foundation   built   of   Emmy   Noether's   work.   The   two major   problems   being   addressed   at   particle   accelerators   right   now   are   posed,   at   their   most   primordial   level, in terms of Noether's Theorem. The   search   for   the   Higgs   Boson   at   CERN   is   predicated   on   the   theory   that   particles   attain   their   masses   by virtue   of   a   broken   symmetry   in   empty   space   (called   the   "Vacuum   Expectation   Value").   Similarly,   the   fact that   universe   contains   so   much   more   matter   than   it   does   antimatter   seems   to   rest   on   the   experimental observation that the laws of nature differ when we swap left and right. Among   mathematicians,   Emmy   Noether   is   recognized   along   with   Newton,   Gauss,   Fourier,   Leibnitz,   as   one of   the   greatest   of   all   time   for   her   work   on   noncommutative   algebra,   group   theory,   hypercomplex   numbers, and   her   Theory   of   Ideals   in   Rings.   But   few   people   outside   mathematics   and   physics   departments   have heard of her. In   1919,   shortly   after   the   armistice   of   World   War   One,   Emmy   was   nominated   for   a   low-level   instructor position   called   a   Privatdozent   but   the   History   and   Philosophy   faculty   opposed   her:   "What   will   our   soldiers think   when   they   return   to   the   university   and   find   that   they   are   required   to   learn   at   the   feet   of   a   woman?"   To this,   Professor   David   Hilbert   replied:   "I   do   not   see   that   the   sex   of   the   candidate   is   an   argument   against   her admission   as   Privatdozent. After   all,   we   are   a   university,   not   a   bath   house"   -   which   has   come   to   be   known as the Bathhouse Quote. Amalie   (Emmy)   Noether   was   a   mathematician   first   and   foremost,   but   she   was   also   a   liberal   pacifist   and   a Jew.   This   was   an   unfortunate   combination   in   Germany   of   the   1930s.   She   was   one   of   the   first   dozen professors   to   be   fired   by   the   Nazis.   Her   brother,   who   was   also   a   mathematician,   accepted   a   position   in Russia   and   urged   her   to   join   him.   Instead, Albert   Einstein   convinced   the   Rockefeller   Foundation   to   match   a grant   from   the   Emergency   Committee   to   Aid   Displaced   German   Scholars   and   Emmy   was   granted   a   one year   instructor   position   at   Bryn   Mawr   College   in   Pennsylvania. At   51   years   of   age,   Emmy   accepted   her   first official,   paid,   academic   position.   The   next   year,   Einstein   had   to   jump   through   the   same   political   hoops   to have the position renewed. Emmy's years at Bryn Mawr were probably the happiest of her life. In 1935, Emmy died of complications after surgery to treat uterine cancer. That   Emmy   Noether   has   never   garnered   the   recognition   of   her   male   peers   is   a   tragedy   of   culture.   That Emmy   Noether's   passion   was   never   daunted   nor   her   achievements   slowed   by   cultural   obstacles   and injustices is a testimony to her spirit.
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Ransom Stephens scientist, author, speaker
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