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Émilie du Châtelet

Updated: Sep 24, 2019

I have spent the past week or so working on the History of Physics Timeline section of this website (still ongoing) and I would like to bring attention to one of the people who have contributed to that history: Émilie du Châtelet.


In 1745, she was among the first to form a mathematical understanding of Kinetic Energy. And in 1759, ten years after her untimely death due to childbirth, her translation-of and commentary on Isaac Newton's Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica was finally published. To this day, it is the standard French translation of that monumental and groundbreaking treatise on physics and mathematics.


I included in this post a portrait of du Châtelet which I like to think of as the "Mona Lisa of physics". As I look into her eyes, I can't help but think that the artist actually captured what she was thinking. I feel like it's something that she could not openly express in her day when women and men were as yet light years from any semblance of equality. If I'm right, then I'm happy to tell her in spirit that I see you and what you're thinking. And I agree.

Émilie du Châtelet

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