Emilie du Chatelet

Emilie du Châtelet
 1706 – 1749.
 Born in Paris, France.
 Fought for her right as a
women to discuss with
men about ideas of
maths and science.
 French mathematician,
physicist, and author
during The Age of
Early Education
On behalf of King Louis XIV her
father held weekly salons where
well-respected writers and scientists
were invited to share their ideas.
Her father used his acquaintances
and arranged for tutors to come to
the house where Du Châtelet received
education in mathematics, literature,
and science.
By the age of 12 she was fluent in Latin,
Italian, German and Greek. Later publishing
translations into French of Greek and Latin
plays and philosophy.
When short of money for books, she used her
mathematical skills to devise highly successful
strategies for gambling.
There is speculation that Du Châtelet’s mother was horrified by
her academic progress and wanted to send her to a convent,
whilst other sources say how she encouraged Du Châtelet to
strongly question stated fact.
Personal Life
At the age of 18, Du Châtelet had an
arranged marriage to a wealthy
soldier who was away most of the
time allowing her to study.
They had three children together.
Sadly the youngest died as a toddler.
Later in life Du Châtelet mothered a
daughter with a different man. She
died a week later at the age of 42.
Further Education
In 1733, aged 26, Du Châtelet continued with her mathematical
Initially tutored in algebra and calculus by Moreau de
Maupertuis, a member of the Academy of Sciences. However, by
1935, she received her mathematical
training by Alexis Clairaut.
One day in 1733, Du Châtelet dressed
as a man to be allowed to take part in
the weekly discussion for scientists and
Relationship with Voltaire
Friendship began in May 1733.
Du Châtelet invited Voltaire to live
in her country house at Cirey-surBlaise where they became longterm companions.
Together they established a
rigorous regime of study to
advance science as much as they
could and amassed over 21,000
Du Châtelet tested
Newton’s theories with
wooden balls swinging from
the rafters in the great hall.
Voltaire and Du Châtelet
produced an introductory
and hugely successful book
on Newtonian philosophy.
The frontispiece portrays
Du Châtelet hovering above
Voltaire’s head, reflecting
Newton’s divine wisdom
down on to Voltaire’s hand.
In Voltaire’s words, “She
dictated and I wrote”.
Achievements in Scientific Research
Heat and Light
In 1937, Du Châtelet published a
paper detailing her research into the
science of fire. This paper predicted
what is today known as infrared
radiation and the nature of light.
Institutions de Physique (Lesson’s in Physics)
This was a book that Du Châtelet
wrote for her 13 year old son. It
was to act as a review of new ideas
in science and philosophy but
instead it incorporated and sought
to resolve complex ideas from
leading thinkers at the time of
Kinetic Energy Ideas
Du Châtelet combined the theories of
Leibniz and practical observations of
Gravesande to show that the energy of
a moving object is proportional not to
its velocity, which had been previously
believed by Newton, but to the square
of its velocity.
E α V (energy of moving object is proportional to velocity)
E α V2 (energy of moving object is proportional to velocity
Newton’s Principia
In 1749, Du Châtelet completed
her most outstanding achievement.
Her translation into French, with
commentary, of Newton’s ‘Principia
This was published ten years after
her death in 1759 and is still to this
day the standard translation of the work into French.

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