EMILIE DU CHATELET

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Emilie du Châtelet is best know for being the lover of Voltaire - a man whose name is synonymous with the Enlightenment, which is considered the single biggest leap in mankind’s understanding of itself and the world. It is also a time period known for male chauvinism and diminishing the ability of women. However overshadowed she was at the time by her lover’s well know achievements and the general historical consensus that she is only worth noting in relation to Voltaire, Emilie’s accomplishments and contributions to the scientific community gave way to groundbreaking discoveries in the field of theoretical physics. 

She is most notably credited with translating Isaac Newton’s Principia from Latin to French, and hers (published in 1759) is still considered the standard French translation today. Her commentary includes a profound contribution to Newtonian mechanics-- the postulate of an additional conservation law for total energy, of which kinetic energy of motion is one element. She expressed his geometric proofs using the more accessible language of calculus, drawing from hew collaborations with early developers of calculus. Albert Einstein’s use of the square of the speed of light, or the c² in his most famous equation, E=mc², can be directly traced to Emilie’s work. Her philosophical magnum opus, Foundations of Physics, circulated widely, generated heated debates, and was republished and translated into several other languages within two years of its original publication

Emilie tragically died at the age of 42 due to an infection, but many speculate how much more she could have contributed to the mathematical and scientific community had her life not been cut short.

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