‘Accomplished’ and ‘unconventional’ are just two words that perfectly sum up Emilie du Chatelet, the French physicist. Now, Emilie was born into an aristocratic family and received an incredible education, which wasn’t really heard of at the time. Du Chatelet studied science, literature, and music, then went on to marry and have three children. She knew her work wasn’t getting the attention and appreciation it should be, as she was very ahead of her time, but many of her translations are still used today. Emilie has been recognized as quite the role model for girls and women and is still celebrated around the world for her work in Newtonian studies and mathematics. Today, we’re looking at a few little-known facts that make her all the more interesting to us.
(image via: wikipedia)
Her interests were considered to be “unfeminine”. Du Chatelet was educated from the comfort of her home, and while she studied German, Greek, Latin, and Italian, fencing, and even riding, and while she excelled in a number of topics, she gravitated toward science and math. She even used her mad math skills to excel in gambling, the used her profits to purchase textbooks and lab supplies.
Emilie married at 18, and spent a fraction of her life after her marriage as a socialite; however, after her third child, her interest in math and physics came back to her and she began her transition from socialite to physicist.
Du Chatelet had a famous lover turned affair turned partner, we suppose. Perhaps you’ve heard of Voltaire, the philosopher? As it turns out, the two were having quite the love affair, and apparently, Emilie’s husband didn’t mind. Du Chatelet and Voltaire were together for about fifteen years and during that time they built a library and performed a number of science experiments together.
(image via: bbc)
If you haven’t noticed, convention didn’t mean a lot to Du Chatelet. Like the time she became the first woman published by the French Academy. In fact, the essay that got her into the top five essays of the Science Academy’s contest was an anonymous piece disagreeing with Voltaire and one of his conclusions.
Du Chatelet died tragically just a few days after giving birth to her fifth child, but she left behind an epic legacy. Emilie often wrote about the struggle of being both a woman of high society as well as a scholar, often sharing that she would rather be in the lab working as opposed to doing housework. She spoke out and advocated for women to receive an education and her work has helped lay the foundation for physics as we know it.