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Emmy Noether – Mathematician Extraordinaire

David E. Rowe
Publication Date: 
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[Reviewed by
Cynthia J. Huffman
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How often do two biographies over the same mathematician, sharing a common author and publisher, appear within a year of each other?  That is exactly what happened recently with the publication of two biographies on Emmy Noether, the mother of Abstract Algebra, by Springer.  One biography is Proving It Her Way by David E. Rowe and Mechthild Koreuber, which appeared in 2020.  The other is the book under review - Emmy Noether Mathematician Extraordinaire by David E. Rowe, which appeared in 2021.  The life story of Emmy Noether is especially inspirational as she successfully overcame two major hurdles – being a woman mathematician and a Jew in Germany in the early 20th century – to have a significant impact on modern mathematics, especially in the field of abstract algebra.
The common author of the two books, David E. Rowe, is Professor Emeritus at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, and a past editor (1994-1996) of Historia Mathematica.  Dr. Rowe is known as an expert on the history of mathematics in Germany, with Google Scholar listing his many articles whose titles include names such as Noether, Hilbert, Klein, and Einstein.   
The inspiration for these two books originated with the involvement of Dr. Rowe and Dr. Mechthild Koreuber (Chief Gender Equality Officer at Freie Universität Berlin) in the production of a play whose title translates into English as Diving into Math with Emmy Noether.  The play debuted in the summer of 2019 at a conference organized by Dr. Koreuber in honor of the 100th anniversary of Emmy Noether’s habilitation.  From the preface of Proving It Her Way, “even though these two books are intended for quite different audiences, the goal in both cases is the same: to illuminate Noether’s life in the context of the times by conveying a full-blooded picture of her role in shaping the mathematical activity of her day and, as it happened, well beyond.”
Emmy Noether Mathematician Extraordinaire, shares 7 of its 9 chapter names with Proving It Her Way.  However, this biography is geared more for those who want mathematics and more technical details included along with the inspiring biographical information.  For example, Chapter 3 is devoted to the mathematics Emmy contributed to Einstein’s theory of relativity, and in the chapter “Nother’s Early Contributions to Modern Algebra,” there are sections on Ideal Theory and the Lasker-Noether Theorem.
In addition to her published papers, we also learn of Noether’s other contributions to mathematics: collaborations and networking to bring various mathematicians together, significant editing of others’ works (some while she served as a referee of the important journal Mathematische Annalen), and the enthusiastic education of a new generation of mathematicians.  Much correspondence (some directly involving Noether, but some among other mathematicians) is included, that aids in weaving the story of the development of abstract algebra along with its application and connections to other mathematics, such as topology.
Emmy Noether Mathematician Extraordinaire is a wonderful mathematical biography of Emmy Noether which provides the reader with an interesting overview of her life, mathematical contributions, and perseverance over discrimination.  A reader desiring specific details about how Emmy Noether earned her title of the mother of Abstract Algebra, along with the fascinating biographical details, would benefit from reading this book.
Dr. Cynthia J. Huffman ( is a University Professor of Mathematics at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, KS.