Émilie du Châtelet

Depicted here is the French mathematician and physicist Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, marquise du Châtelet. Émilie was born 17 December, 1706 in Paris, the only girl amongst six children. Her father was of lesser nobility, and he held the position of the Principal Secretary and Introducer of Ambassadors to King Louis XIV. Émilie’s education has been the subject of much speculation, but nothing is known with certainty. Émilie first talked about astronomy when she was only ten years old in the French Academy of Sciences. As a result, by the age of twelve she was fluent in Latin, Italian, Greek, and German; she was later to publish translations into French of Greek and Latin plays and philosophy.

Shown here she is holding a compass above many papers which seem to have some sort of calculations or astronomical findings on them. Those papers also may be her studying or translating the work of Isaac Newton into French, as she is known for translating his book, Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica  (“Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”), into French. She was one of the few women to be credited for her own work from the scientific revolution without the credit going to her husband. With her findings and translations, Émilie was able to aid many people and expand on others’ findings, showing many people that women are just as credible as men.

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