Nelli Neumann was born in Breslau, Prussia, the only child of Jewish parents Max Neumann, a judicial officer, and Sophie Neumann, who died when Nelli was two years old. After ten years in the private Höhere Töchterschule in Breslau, Neumann attended girls' grammar courses and graduated at a boys' school (König-Wilhelm-Gymnasium) in 1905. Her father promoted her mathematical talent by arranging private mathematics lessons given by Richard Courant. The two went on to study together at the University of Breslau and University of Zürich. Neumann would return to Breslau for her doctorate, for which she completed her thesis in 1909 under the supervision of Rudolf Sturm. After Courant received his post-doctoral degree at Göttingen University, they married in the summer of 1912.
Turning down a post-doctoral position at the University of Breslau, Neumann then took courses that qualified her to become a secondary school teacher. On February 16, 1916, she and Courant divorced. After the First World War she taught at a girls' school in Essen, but lost her position when the Nazis took power in 1933. On 10 November 1941 she was deported to Minsk, where she was executed in 1942.
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