Emilie du Chatelet

by rakane ~ April 20th, 2010. Filed under: Chapter 16: The Age of Enlightenment: Rationalism and its Uses.

One of the most famous authors who came out of the Enlightenment period was Voltaire, who advocated civil liberties and social reform. Many people, though, fail to recognize his muse Emilie du Chatelet, a brillant author and mathematician in her own right.

Du Chatelet was an accomplished physicist, who in 1737 wrote a paper predicting what we now know to be infrared light. She also worked with Voltaire to translate Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica into French and even added her own commentary. This version is still the standard French translation used.

In this picture, du Chatelet is depicted as reflecting Newton’s heavenly insights down to Voltaire. After du Chatelet’s death, Voltaire said she was “a great man whose only fault was being as woman”.

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