Emilie du Chatelet
By: Alex Cattie


Emilie du Chatelet’s name was originally Gabrielle Emilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil. Du Chatelet was born in Paris, France on December 17, 1706. Emilie's father was Louis-Nicolas and her mother was Gabrielle-Anne. She was raised in her house to realize that courting was the only way to be known in their society. Du Chatelet was very clumsy at a young age so her parents made her take fencing, horseback riding, and gymnastics to help her clumsiness.

While Emilie was learning her studies at an early age, she grew a fondness of mathematics that showed her father that she was talented. Emilie du Chatelet was encouraged to study math more and more by a family friend, M. de Mezieres. Her father allowed her to study more in school and she soon mastered the languages, Latin, Italian, and English. Gabrielle-Anne was not proud of her daughter like her husband was; she wanted Emilie to be a well behaved young lady and didn't care about studies. Emilie was introduced to physics by Bernard le Bovier de Fontenel. Du Chatelet's parents had parties every night in their Paris home which included inviting famous mathematicians such as Bernard de Fontenelle.

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Du Chatelet's most influential tutor of all was Pierre Louis de Maupertuis. He was one of the most leading mathematicians and astronomers of Emilie's day. He belonged to the English Royal Society and the French Academy of Sciences. Maupertuis also was the president of the Berlin Academy for a brief period of time.

Du Chatelet's cousin had just moved in and she was not happy about all of the attention on her cousin so she talked to Emilie's mother and Gabrielle-Anne gave all of her attention to Renee- Caroline, Emilie's cousin. Renee- Caroline also convinced Gabrielle- Anne to move Emilie out of her room and to another room because Renee-Anne wanted that room. Renee-Anne could talk about fashion and the news, but if Emilie would try to say something, she would always get it wrong or talk about studies.

Emilie du Chatelet was married at age nineteen on June 20, 1725 to Marquis Florent-Claude Chastellet who was later made the governor of Semur-en-Auxois in Burgundy. They had three children, a girl and two boys, but the second boy died soon after he was born.
Emilie du Chatelet along with mathematics was interested in the French court. She soon realized that she had a great passion for it and soon to sit in the presence of the Queen. Du Chatelet especially liked the gambling and the amorous adventures. (Osen, 54) Emilie du Chatelet was thought to have committed two unforgivable sins. One was refusing to give up her study of mathematics and physics, even though she was extremely good at it and hired the best teachers in France to help her. The second sin was that she stole the heart of Voltaire, the most facile wit who ever illuminated a salon, and she allowed him to be her companion for the rest of her life. (Osen, 55)

Most Interesting Fact to Me:

Emilie's husband was not particularly in favor of her studies. He did not pay attention to her when she was talking about them and showed very little interest even though she could divide nine digits by different nine digits in her head. Another reason that he did not approve of her studies was because of Voltaire. He did not like that Voltaire was with his wife so much and that he could help her with her studies but he could not.

Du Chatelet first met Voltaire as a child at one her parent’s dinner parties. They met again soon after and Voltaire felt that he could talk to her about math and physics unlike any other women in Paris. At this time Emilie du Chatelet had been studying mathematics and physics with Mauperuis. Voltaire and du Chatelet shared the same opinion that Newton's world view was very true. One time du Chatelet dressed up in men’s clothes and went into the Café Gradot, which was the cafe in Paris that all of the most famous mathematicians came to debate with other mathematicians and physicians.

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Voltaire was very close to Emilie du Chatelet; he even built a gallery and formed a collection of natural history in her and her husband's new house. Emilie helped design the garden surrounding the house. He also helped her design a library in the house in order to help her study with new materials. Soon the two would transform it into a laboratory to conduct their experiments in.

Most Known Mathematical Fact:

Emilie became interested in Leibniz who explained his book Institutions de physique which explained his theories and systems, soon after though; she became greatly interested in "the Great Newton". She was fascinated in his discoveries and she translated his entire book on the principles of the mathematics into French. This was unique because this was one of the many books about mathematics that many people did not understand.
Emilie and Voltaire discovered that a Dutch Philosopher had done experiments and had come up with the equation, E=mc which is energy equals mass times the speed of light. While du Chatelet and her colleges went into more a more detailed experiment, they found out that if the theory of the Dutch philosopher was deepened, then the equation was actually, E= mc2 which is energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. Now in modern times we have realized that the speed of light can also be calculated as velocity and use the equation as E=mv2.

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An example of this equation would be if the velocity of a ball or rock was 100 mph, then they knew that the energy it carried would be proportional to its mass times 100 squared. If the velocity is raised as high as it could go, to 670 million mph, it's almost as if the ultimate energy an object will contain should be revealed when you look at its mass times
c squared, or its mc2.

Known Mathematical and Scientific Facts:

Voltaire was the one who encouraged Emilie to translate Newton's book into French so that the whole country of France would be able to learn more about Newton and his ideas. Even though her translated copy of Newton's book was not published, it was passed on to many scholars so they would know and learn the ways of Newton. (Osen, 59) Du Chatelet also translated The Fable of the Bees, a book about morals, into French and also added a few things to the preface and took out some things from the book.

Voltaire introduced a contest that he was going to enter to du Chatelet about science at the French Academy of Sciences. The reports were to be about a certain investigation with the nature of fire. Voltaire had been working on his essay for a long time while du Chatelet had only worked on it for a month. Emilie had only begun to decide to enter the contest because she disagreed with a lot of the points in Voltaire’s paper. Du Chatelet kept her entry in the contest secret from Voltaire because her paper was so well put about arguing that both light and heat have the same cause or are both modes of motion. She also discovered that different colored rays do not give out equal degrees of heat. (Osen, 60) Neither of the essays won, but they were so well written that they were also displayed on the front page with the winners.

One of the things that Emilie du Chatelet brought to focus that I thought was very unique was, that great thinker sometime do not think about the main things they stress about the unexplainable. She also introduced the work of Newton back into seventeenth-century science, a thing that helped many scholars.

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