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Celebrating Emmy Noether

Published 2016

Celebrating Emmy Noether

This event celebrates the work and life of Emmy Noether, one of the first Visitors at the Institute from 1933–35. A highly prolific mathematician who published groundbreaking papers in rarefied fields of abstract algebra and ring theory, Noether is best known for her theorem, which united two conceptual pillars in physics: symmetry in nature and the universal laws of conservation.

Georgia Benkart, Member (1996) in the School of Mathematics and Professor Emerita at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, discusses Emmy Noether’s groundbreaking mathematical contribution to modern algebra. Karen Uhlenbeck, founder of the Women and Mathematics Program at the Institute and Professor Emerita at the University of Texas, explores Noether’s fundamental insight into the conservation law in modern theoretical physics. Additionally, Catherine Chung, Visitor in the Program in Interdisciplinary Studies and Assistant Professor at Adelphi University, gives a brief overview of Emmy Noether’s life. Ingrid Daubechies, Member (1999) in the School of Mathematics and James B. Duke Professor of Mathematics and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University, moderates the event. 

Emmy Noether: Breathtaking Mathematics by Georgia Benkart

By the mid 1920s, Emmy Noether had made fundamental contributions to commutative algebra and to the theory of invariants. Her crowning achievement from this period was "Noether's Theorem," establishing deep connections between conserved quantities in physics and mathematical invariants. She then tackled noncommutative algebra and demonstrated its significance for many fields of mathematics, including number theory, representation theory, and even commutative theory. The relationship between the non-commutative and the commutative was the overarching theme of her plenary lecture at the International Congress of Mathematicians in 1932, a high point of her remarkable career. Her mathematical legacy is still very much in evidence in the numerous concepts and results that can be traced back to her work, many of which bear her name.

Symmetry and Conservation Laws: Noether's Contribution to Physics by Karen Uhlenbeck

A single result of Noether's is widely credited in physics papers as fundamental to the modern way of approaching physics. Two basic ideas are those of symmetry on the one side and the notion of quantities such as energy preserved under flows on the other. While parts of the theory were not new at the time, the 1918 paper of Noether related the two subjects in a beautiful, complete and definitive fashion. 

Support for this event is provided by the Schwab Charitable Fund made possible by the generosity of Eric and Wendy Schmidt.