Emmy Noether Was Kept Out of German Universities First Because She Was a Woman, and Then Because She Was a Jew

This year marked the 100th anniversary of the publication of a groundbreaking paper in the area of mathematics known as ring theory by a German Jew named Emmy Noether—whom Albert Einstein would later describe as a “creative mathematical genius.” When Noether completed her doctorate in 1909, at the age of twenty-seven, women were barred from the faculties of German universities. She only obtained a position as a lecturer in 1919. Tamar Lichter Blanks tells her story:

Noether made important contributions to theoretical physics and Einstein’s theory of relativity. . . . Noetherian rings, [a category of mathematical phenomena she discovered], show up all the time in modern mathematics. Mathematicians still use Noether’s [methods] today, not just in ring theory, but in other areas such as number theory and algebraic geometry.

Noether published her famous ring-theory paper and other important results in mathematics while she was a lecturer in Göttingen from 1919 to 1933. But in the spring of 1933, the University of Göttingen received a telegram: six faculty members—including Noether—had to stop teaching immediately. The Nazis had passed a law barring Jews from professorship.

Noether’s response, it seems, was calm. “This thing is much less terrible for me than it is for many others,” she wrote in a letter to a fellow mathematician. But she was out of a job, and no university in Germany could hire her.

Help came from the United States. Bryn Mawr, a women’s college in Pennsylvania, offered Noether a professorship through a special fund for refugee German scholars. . . . Noether’s time at Bryn Mawr was, tragically, short. In 1935 she had surgery to remove a tumor and died unexpectedly four days later.

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Read more at Conversation

More about: Albert Einstein, Anti-Semitism, German Jewry, Mathematics, Nazism, Sexism

 

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter