Emmy Noether

Program note

Many of my works are about my fascinating with the lives of scientists. In these compositions I don’t attempt to give a precise outline or demonstration of any specific theorem, they are simply the result of having been inspired by the force of concentration and creativity of scientists, their method of work and the frequency with which they meet society’s opposition.

My new work for Standing Waves is a tribute to the life and work of the German mathematician Emmy Noether, who was known for her groundbreaking contributions to abstract algebra and theoretical physics.

Symmetry, conservation of energy, momentum : as with composition, these are primary concerns of the Noether theorem (1915), a theorem which leant proof to Einstein’s theory of general relativity and remains a cornerstone in the equations of physicists today. The Noether theorem allows physicists to find conserved quantities in the symmetries of the laws of nature. Time translation symmetry gives conservation of momentum; rotation symmetry gives conservation of angular momentum, and so on.

The daughter of mathematician Max Noether, her talents were obvious, but society of the early 20th Century did not have a role for women in a University setting. She taught for many years without pay at the University of Erlangen until she was invited to be part of the Göttingen mathematics department by eminent mathematicians who recognized her work. The value of her work provided her with a career rich in academic successes with the University until she was forced out altogether because of her Jewish heritage in 1933. Like so many other artists and scientists, she found a new life in United States where she taught at Bryn Mawr College until her sudden death in 1935, the result of an unexplained fever after an operation.


Year of composition