A recent article in the New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/27/science/emmy-noether-the-most-significant-mathematician-youve-never-heard-of.html?pagewanted=all says, among other things, "Noether was a highly prolific mathematician, publishing groundbreaking papers, sometimes under a man’s name, in rarefied fields of abstract algebra and ring theory." This is the first I have ever heard of Emmy Noether publishing under a male pseudonym, and I ask whether anyone can confirm, or refute, the assertion in the Times.

I wonder if the author is confusing Emmy with her mathematician father Max; or if the author has in mind times when Noether gave lectures that were advertised as Hilbert's; or if the author has in mind Sophie Germain, who wrote under the name M. LeBlanc.

EDIT: I have an answer from the writer, and it appears that Zsban hit the nail on the head in a comment. The writer says her point was badly phrased, and she was referring to Noether's letting (male) students and colleagues publish her ideas as if those ideas were their own. My thanks to all who have contributed here.

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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps the most direct way to find out what the author had in mind is to write to the author; there's a link you can get to by clicking the by-line. $\endgroup$ – j.c. Mar 28 '12 at 6:21
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    $\begingroup$ Isn't M. LeBlanc the actor who played on Friends (Joey, I think)? I didn't know he was actually Sophie Germain. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Mar 28 '12 at 8:14
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    $\begingroup$ The short bibliography written by Erich Friedmann at www2.stetson.edu/~efriedma/periodictable/html/No.html says “Much of her work appears in papers written by colleagues and students, rather than under her own name.” $\endgroup$ – Zsbán Ambrus Mar 28 '12 at 10:34
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    $\begingroup$ I'd also emphasize that the NYT article was written by one of their general science writers who obviously didn't go deeply into these matters and probably didn't even consult the books published 30 years ago around the centennial of Noether's birth. Much popular science journalism (even in the NYT) is relatively superficial and unbalanced (even wrong at times), tending for example to apply routinely terms like "genius" or "brilliant" to virtually anyone who does mathematics. Caveat lector. $\endgroup$ – Jim Humphreys Mar 28 '12 at 12:11
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    $\begingroup$ I think the journalistic excellence displayed by this article is best summed up by the tidbit, "...including David Hilbert and Felix Klein, who did for the bottle what August Ferdinand Möbius had done for the strip." $\endgroup$ – Paul Siegel Mar 28 '12 at 15:16

I have a copy of her biography, Emmy Noether, 1882-1935 by Auguste Dick (translated to English by H.I. Blocher). Appendix A contains a list of 43 publications, apparently complete, and not one is indicated as being published pseudonymously. Of course a few had male co-authors, but that is not the same at all.

Also, I skimmed the text of the book and could find no reference to such a thing.

If Natalie Angier, the author of the New York Times article, is aware of a pseudonymous Noether paper, she would seem to be the only one.

I agree with Allen Knutson that a letter to the paper's corrections department is in order.

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  • $\begingroup$ I guess that list of 43 is precisely the same list (modulo collected works and such) on ZB Math? $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Mar 28 '12 at 19:01

In absence of any evidence (she has collected works, and there are various people who have studied her biography) this is nonsense. In addition, this would not at all be compatible with Emmy Noether's character.

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    $\begingroup$ This would suggest a letter to the NYTimes corrections department, which I remember responding very diligently to a letter I sent them, some long time ago. $\endgroup$ – Allen Knutson Mar 28 '12 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Allen: It is only appropriate to link to their best correction ever: nytimes.com/2011/12/30/pageoneplus/… (first item). $\endgroup$ – Ori Gurel-Gurevich Mar 28 '12 at 17:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Ori: Because I am not above it, I'll point out that the second item in that list of corrections isn't bad either... $\endgroup$ – Ramsey Mar 29 '12 at 4:28

EDIT: it appears I am behind Gerry by about 16 hours. That's what comes of not reading ALL the comments. Sigh.

There was an option to email the author by clicking on something, I sent: =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Dear Ms. Angier, We are having trouble substantiating your suggestion that Emmy Noether sometimes published under a man's name. She did sometimes have male co-authors, of course. Please see Did Emmy Noether ever publish under a man's name? In short, we think that she never published anything under a man's name. If you know otherwise for certain, I would be interested in details.


William C. Jagy

Berkeley, CA



NOTE this is not the same as a letter to the editor or to a corrections department.

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    $\begingroup$ This may come back to a sentence in the Encylopedia Britanica article: "Emmy Noether." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 29 Mar. 2012. <britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/417132/Emmy-Noether>. There it is stated that much of her work appeared in publications of colleagues and students. This is not the same as stating that she published under a man's name, but it is close. My interpretation is that this is saying she passed on helpful ideas to others more often than most mathematicians. $\endgroup$ – Terry Loring Mar 30 '12 at 0:42

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