Emmy Noether’s statue?

Non-existence theorem

There is no statue of Emmy Noether.  Yes, she’s had a Google doodle. Yes, there is a bust of her in the Hall of Fame in Munich. But no statue.
Bust in the Hall of Fame in Munich

To those who don’t know, Noether was one of the most influential of twentieth century mathematicians. She accomplished ground-breaking work in abstract algebra, and had a major impact on physics in her work on symmetry, conservation laws and relativity. She did all this in an academic environment that was extremely hostile to female mathematicians, where she had to audit courses at the University of Erlangen since they didn’t accept women students.

In an earlier blog I wrote:

“Names like Hilbert, Einstein, Artin, Fitting, Krull, and Taussky-Todd all have connections to Noether.  She was a real force of nature. David Hilbert was a friend and supporter, and was responsible for getting Emmy to work with him on mathematical aspects of general relativity (which apparently the Hilbert-Noether team proved rigorously before Einstein, although they claimed to not know the meaning of their calculations!).”

Statues of mathematicians

Perhaps mathematicians don’t typically get their own statues. Wrong!

Here is a statue of Pierre de Fermat in Beaumont de Lomagne in France.

Denkmal zu Pierre Fermat / Monument for Pierre Fermat

Below is a statue of Alan Turing in Manchester, England.

Denkmal fuer Alan Turing /  Memorial for Alan Turing

Here is one of Srinivasa Ramanujan in Chennai, India.


And there are many, many other examples. Monuments on Mathematicians is a site listing statues, busts, stamps, and wells dedicated to mathematicians.

Plaques and streets

Noether has a plaque in her honor in her hometown of Erlangen, Germany.

Tafel zu E. Noether / Plaque for E. Noether

There is a street in Erlangen named after her and her father Max Noether, who was also a mathematician (listed first on the sign, although she was more epic).

A recent public lecture event Celebrating Emmy Noether, with speakers such as Ingrid Debauchies and Georgia Benkhart, took place at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton.

As part of the event, a bronze plaquette was unveiled dedicated to Noether.

Obverse of Emmy Noether Plaquette, commissioned by the International Mathematical Union.
Plaquette of Emmy Noether by artist Stephanie Magdziak.

Bryn Mawr

Emmy Noether deserves recognition not only in the form of plaques and street names, but in a statue along with the other greats of my field. I would like to see it a Bryn Mawr, her adopted home after fleeing Nazi Germany. Bryn Mawr is women’s liberal arts college four miles outside Philadelphia. American gave her a safe place to conduct research and teach, and it was there she met her untimely death after complications from surgery to remove uterine cancer at the age of 53.

Given Noether’s stature, her lasting impact in mathematics and physics, and incredible life story, a permanent statue at Bryn Mawr would be absolutely appropriate. It would be fantastic!

Image result for the cloisters bryn mawr
The Cloisters at Bryn Mawr.

The Cloisters is a quiet courtyard at Bryn Mawr, with a small fountain surrounded by grass. There are outdoor theater performances there. Emmy is buried in The Cloisters, and her simple grave marker—marked with only her initials E.N.—is embedded in the pavement.

Emmy Noether’s simple grave marker
Emmy Noether’s grave marker at The Cloisters.

A statue honoring the greatest mathematicians of the twentieth or any century would be a fitting addition to this solemn place. Emmy’s memory deserves this.

How can we make this happen?

Anthony Bonato

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