Monday, February 25, 2013

One of the best -- and a woman

Women in mathematics have not been much-written-about.  This blog has made  a few corrective efforts and more are needed. Perhaps change is beginning -- for March is Women's History Month and the 2013 theme is:
 Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination:
Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

Penn State University philosophy professor and poet Emily Grosholz uses mathematics not-infrequently in her work (for example, this posting of mine) and she has written (as I have) about discrimination suffered by mathematician Amalie "Emmy" Noether -- described by the NYTimes in a March 2012 article as "the most significant mathematician you've never heard of."  My own poem about Noether was  a poem of self-discovery in which I wrote of discrimination against her and began to see aspects of my own situation more clearly.  That poem, "My Dance Is Mathematics," appears in this blog's opening post --  on 23 March 2012.

Here, Emmy Noether is featured in Grosholz's poem, "Mind":

Mind     by Emily Grosholz

             For Hourya Sinaceur

The enormous, high-ceilinged apartment near Trocadéro
Echoes, though it is full of books, intaglio’d furniture, and flowers,
As if reflecting the old house in Rabat, now seized and lost,
And the great, oceanless dunes ranged beyond the city walls
That bear the trace of wind sifting, but not of mind.

You write the history of mind, entering its formal labyrinth
With only the silk thread of demonstration to lead you on.
So Hilbert guides you, Poincaré, Weyl, Noether, Cavaillès.
So Emmy Noether grieved for Hilbert’s house, her home and circle,
Stranded on the outskirts of Philadelphia, where she died.

So Göttingen fell, the greatest commonwealth of mind
Europe ever knew, dismantled by the agents of the Reich
Who sized up living mathematicians as Catholics, women, Jews.
So Cavaillès was shot against a wall, so Emmy Noether,
Exiled from her algebraic home, succumbed to memory. Don’t you.

First published in The Hudson Review. 

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