Châteaux, powdered wigs & physics

Emilie du Chatelet (1706 – 1749)

Emilie du Chatelet was a great mathematician and physicist at a time when few women were encouraged to continue their education beyond learning how to read. Living in the first half of the 18th century, Emilie du Chatelet was lucky to be born into nobility to have a father that recognized her abilities and gave her a first-rate mathematical education through tutors. She continued to seek out the best tutors and thinkers of her time as mentors.

Her greatest achievements:

Emilie du Chatelet’s achievements were many. She corresponded with well known philosophers, mathematicians and physicist of her time. She contributed to our understanding of heat and light, and postulated the idea of infrared light, and put forth a hypothesis about energy that in the 19th century would be used to fully understand the conservation of energy and kinetic energy.

Some of her greatest achievements, however, were the translation of Isaac Newton’s Principia into French and writing her own Foundations of Physics (in French: Institutions de Physique). The commentary she included with the translation of Principia and the hypotheses and theories laid out in her own book contributed significantly to the understanding and establishment of Newtonian physics.

Further reading:

These sources will give you a deeper understanding of Emilie du Chatelet’s life and contributions to science:

Project Vox


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