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Emilie du Chatelet

"A normal woman and a good scientist"

Emilie du Chatelet by Maurice Quentin de la Tour

MP4 file (audio and images) MP3 file (audio only)

Patricia Fara, historian of science at the University of Cambridge, talks about Emilie du Chatelet (1706 - 1749), mathematician, translator and populariser of Newton's work in France. We learn about:

  • du Chatelet's background and education (time 0:28)
  • her interest in Newtonian ideas (0:52)
  • her relationship with Voltaire (1:32)
  • her attitude to life and science (2:11)
  • the book Elements of the Philosophy of Newton (2:49)
  • her translation of Newton's Principia (4:19)
  • what was behind du Chatelet's achievement (6:11)
  • her context: differences between French and English society in her time (6:51)
  • a parallel with Mary Somerville (8:15)
  • du Chatelet as a woman in science (9:42)

The portrait of Emilie du Chatelet is by Maurice Quentin de la Tour and the reproduction is taken from Wikimedia Commons.

Patricia Fara

Patricia Fara has a degree in physics from Oxford University and a PhD in History of Science from London University. She now lectures in the History and Philosophy of Science department at Cambridge, where she is the Senior Tutor of Clare College. Her major research specialities are science in eighteenth-century England and scientific imagery. A regular contributor to popular journals as well as radio and TV, she has published a range of academic and popular books on the history of science, including Newton: The Making of Genius (2002), Sex, Botany and Empire (2003) and Pandora's Breeches: Women, Science and Power in the Enlightenment (2004). Her latest book is Science: A Four Thousand Year History (2009), which has recently been awarded the biennial Dingle Prize by the British Society for the History of Science. Her next book, Erasmus Darwin: Sex, Science & Serendipity, will be published by Oxford University Press in the autumn of 2012.

Further reading:

Patricia Fara, Pandora's Breeches: Women, Science and Power in the Enlightenment (London: Pimlico, 2004)
"Scientists without Beards": Patricia Fara on Emilie du Chatelet (OUP blog)
Wikipedia, Emilie du Chatelet

Patricia Fara's other books include:
Science: A Four Thousand Year History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)
Newton: the Making of Genius (London: MacMillan, 2002)

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This project was supported by the MSOR Network, the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications and the Universities of Greenwich and Birmingham as part of the National HE STEM Programme and was completed in May 2012. 

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