Today's Google logo
advertises the great mathematician Emmy Noether (1882-1935).
I wrote a potted bio of Noether
on the 70th anniversary of her death. From which:
Her colleagues regarded her with awe and affection, though since they were all male, and Kaiser Wilhelm's [exceptionally misogynist] Germany was only a dozen or so years in the past, the affection expressed itself in ways that would not be accepted nowadays. Noether did not at all conform to the standards of femininity current in that time and place — nor, it has to be said in fairness to her colleagues, any other time and place. She was stocky and plain, with thick glasses and a deep, harsh voice. She wore shapeless clothes and cropped her hair. She had a rough temper, and her lecturing style was generally described as impenetrable.Hence all the disparaging quips, not meant unkindly at the time, that have become part of mathematical folklore. Best known is the reply by her colleague Edmund Landau, when asked if he did not agree that Noether was an instance of a great woman mathematician: "Emmy is certainly a great mathematician; but that she is a woman, I cannot swear." Norbert Wiener described her somewhat more generously as "an energetic and very nearsighted washerwoman whose many students flocked around her like a clutch of ducklings around a kind, motherly hen." Hermann Weyl expressed the common opinion most gently: "The graces did not preside at her cradle." Weyl also tried to take the edge off the appellation Der Noether (der being the masculine form of the definite article in German): "If we at Göttingen … often referred to her as Der Noether, it was … done with a respectful recognition of her power as a creative thinker who seemed to have broken through the barrier of sex … She was a great mathematician, the greatest."
She surely was. If I were a 2015 feminist looking for a poster gal, though, I'm not sure Emmy would be my first choice.
A friend who remembered that column of mine emailed:
Curious if that bio would be in a search result, I clicked through. And through and through and through until I struck German.Alas, no chops from the goog to the Derbster.You must be filtered.
I don't know if that's really the case, but I wouldn't be very surprised.
If it is
the case, I accept it in a spirit of proud defiance. We are now at the point in the suppression of dissident opinions that to be censored or "filtered" by the Thought Police is a mark of honor. Screw 'em.