Essay, Research Paper: Emilie Du Chatlet


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Born in Paris on December 17, 1706, Emilie du Chatlet grew up in a household
where the art of courting was the only way one could recieve a place in society.
During her early childhood, Emilie began to show great improvement in the area
of academics that soon she was able to convince her father that she needed
attention. She studied Latin, Italian and English. She also studied Tasso,
Virgil, Milton and other great scholars. In spite of her talents in the area of
languages, her true love was mathematics. Emilie's cleverness was outstanding in
other areas as well. At the age of nineteen she married a man named Marquis du
Chatelet. Emilie had conquered the heart of Voltaire, one of most intriguing and
brilliant scholars of this time. As Voltaire notes "We long employed all
our attention and powers upon Leibniz and Newton; Mme du Chatelet attached
herself first to Leibniz, and explained one part of his system in a book
exceedingly well written, entitled Institutions de physique". However she
soon abandoned the work of Leibniz and applied herself to the discoveries of the
great Newton. She was extremely successful in translating his whole book on the
principals of mathematics into French. The years Emilie spent with Voltaire at
Cirey were some of the most productive years of her life. When there were no
guests both of them remained tied to their desks. In the spring of 1748, Emilie
met and fell in love with the Marquis de Saint-Lambert, a courtier and very
minor poet. This affair, however, did not destroy her friendship with Voltaire.
Even when he found out that she was carrying Saint-Lambert's child, Voltaire was
there to support her. With the help of Voltaire and Saint-Lambert, she was able
to convince her husband that it was his child she was carrying. In early
September of 1749, she gave birth to a baby girl. As Voltaire describes it:
"The little girl arrives while her mother was at her writing desk,
scribbling some Newtonian theories, and the newly born baby was placed
temporarily on a quarto volume of geometry, while her mother gathered together
her papers and was put to bed". On September 10, 1749 she died suddenly at
the age of 43. As many authors note, during the course of her short life, Emilie
was a truly unique woman and scholar. Among her greatest achievements were her
Institutions du physique and the translation of Newton's Principia, which was
published after her death along with a "Preface historique" by
Voltaire. Emilie du Chatelet was one of many women whose contributions have
helped shape the course of mathematics.
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