Emilie’s Accomplishments in Science

One cannot speak of Emilie’s accomplishments in science and mathematics without speaking of Voltaire. Emilie first met Voltaire when she was a child, as he was one of the many dinner guests at her parent’s home. When Emilie was 27 they met again and developed a strong relationship.

Voltaire had just returned from England and Emilie was one of few women with whom he could discuss his interests in political, philosophical, and most importantly, science. In addition, they both held deep convictions about Newton’s world view, which at that time, was quite unpopular in France. Fleeing a warrant for his arrest (for his anti-French writings), Voltaire took up residence at du Chatelet’s husband’s home– Cirey-sur-Blaise in northeastern France. It was here at Cirey where du Chatelet completed some of her most significant work.

Of this time Voltaire wrote, “found in 1733 a young lady who felt more or less as I did, and who resolved to spend several years in the country to cultivate her mind, far from the tumult of the world. It was the marquise Du Châtelet, the woman who in all France had the greatest disposition for all the sciences. … Seldom has so fine a mind and so much taste been united with so much ardour for learning; but she also loved the world and all the amusements of her age and sex. Nevertheless she left all this to go and bury herself in a dilapidated house on the frontiers of Champagne and Lorraine, where the land was very fertile and very ugly. She beautified the house, to which she added pleasant gardens. I built a gallery, in which I created a very fine collection of scientific instruments. We had a large library.” (L Morland (ed.), Voltaire, Oeuvres complètes (1879) from O’Connor and Robertson Chatelet Biography, para. 14). The library that they created was as well stocked as that of the Academy of Sciences in Paris and they brought in the latest laboratory equipment from England.

By 1736 Voltaire and du Chatelet were jointly working on the book, Eléments de la philosophie de Newton. The book was published in 1738 under Voltaire’s name, but in the preface he makes it clear that the book was a collaborative process with Emilie.

With Voltaire being much older than du Chatelet, one might think that she was simply the female assistant, or young lover, but that was not the case. Emilie was a formidable partner to Voltaire and was challenging some of the days most important scientific assumptions.

One of those assumptions was the understanding of what energy was. At that time, it was commonly held that energy was simply the product of its mass times its velocity (e = mv)—that is to say that if a 10 pound object is going 12 miles per hour it would have 120 units of energy. Even Voltaire himself had popularized this idea, originally from Newton. But, Emilie knew of a different and competing theory on the subject written by the Diagrams from du Châtelet's Institutions physiquesGerman philosopher and mathematician, Gottfried Leibniz. Then, du Chatelet found compelling evidence in some experiments the Dutch researcher, Willem Gravesande, had been conducting.  “If the simple E = mv was true, then a weight going twice as fast as an earlier one would sink in twice as deeply. One going three times as fast would sink three times as deep. But that’s not what Gravesande found. If a small brass sphere was sent down twice as fast as before, it pushed four times as far into the clay. It if was flung down three times as fast, it sank nine times as far into the clay.” (NOVA site, 2005, para. 9).

What du Chatelet then did was to revisit Leibniz’s theory and take it to the next level with the scientific evidence as provided by Gravesande’s experiments. The conclusion it led her to was that energy was equal to an object’s mass times it’s velocity squared (E = mv2). This discovery was used by numerous physicists as a way to predict an objects energy. Much, much later, a young scientist, named Albert Einstein would use this discovery as one of the keys that would unlock his theory of relativity, E = mc2.

Emilie du Chatelet—Female Scientist

29 Comments

  1. savanna said,

    I like it in all, but could you mack a site like this but list the accomplishments.That way a eaith grader like myself could under stand them for a report!

    • adityajoshi5 said,

      It’s nice to see an eighth grader browsing pages like this. You’d have crossed your school by now. It’s your turn to be like the people discussed here.

      Best of luck!

  2. krissie said,

    i am doing Émilie du Châtelet for my scienece project in yr 7. this site helped me so thank you for the info.

  3. rachel said,

    This sight doesn’t tell about her accomplishments.Emilie du Chatelet did so many great things, and I, a 7th grader tell you that this sight does not give enough info about Emilie.

    • Rosaly said,

      iagree with rachel i am also a 7th grader and emilie contributed so much to our present right now if you could give a bit more information then every one will actually no the significance to her line of work.

  4. shinga!illbinurecloset@8!cj! said,

    its ok but it didnt help!tuppid!

  5. JesS!C@ said,

    yeaa this doesnt help @ ALL!!

    keep trying cuz this was no good. =)

    sorry.

  6. aliya said,

    Umm… sorry but what is that picture of? The one with all the sketches?? Is it from du Chateau’s notes or something?

    Can someone tell me as soon as possible because I have a history project for my final and if that was a picture from her notes it would help a lot.

    thanks,
    aliya

  7. puffy said,

    This gives No info about her at all but thanks 4 the pic!

  8. Kaya said,

    You should do a time line it would be less confusing and more realistic thanks

  9. hayley said,

    heyy

    this helped me quiet a bit

    but it doesnt tell me what i need about emilie du chatelet

    like it only has one accomplishment of her life

    n i need a few..

    thankz neways

  10. lala said,

    ok..so this doesnt help me at all..and i need to know accomplishmenst of her life as a mathmatician! but thanks anyway…

  11. julissa said,

    there are too many words and they are too small, it looks like its really boring and no one would want to read.

  12. minnie said,

    This was not at all sufficeint enough about the accomplishments of du Chatelet. Sorry but yeah, it sucked

  13. poopymcpoopster said,

    this only talks about that guy and not at all about her accomplishments but purple is a pretty color

    poooop
    :D

  14. poopymcpoopster said,

    on second thaught, this sight really helped. i am doing a report on her in 6th grade and this was super helpful. if u guys can’t find what she did for math, just read the paragraph right above the big confusing picture…
    SHE FOUND THE PRODUCTION OF ENERGY BEFORE EINSTEIN DID, YA NUT HEADS!!!!!
    ;D :D

  15. Morgan said,

    I’m writing a papaer on albert einstein and the equation e=mc2 and all of the key players in the descoveries of each component of the equation for my 9th grade honors science class. This article really helped me with the paper

  16. Mikayla said,

    I need more help than this. Where are the achivments? Someone help me!

  17. Shaquiqui said,

    Yea ya know this junk aint no good, and i am a 9th grader tryin ta do a report on dis person so srry try again wit more info. holla!

  18. manoude said,

    wish it talked more about her accomplishments and less about voltaire

  19. Jaime said,

    This does a really great job on focusing on Emilie’s accomplishments in Science and explaining it in simplistic terms. Great job, exactly what I needed.

    The rest of you are illiterate trolls. This says ‘Emilie’s Accomplishments IN SCIENCE’. This was, in fact, her major accomplishment in science. It does not state this was her accomplishments in general, nor her biography.

    Honestly, kids.

  20. cal said,

    we needed quotes on her this didnt help

  21. gabe said,

    did not help me

  22. Nicole the Photographer said,

    Christ on a bike! – do stop whining – learn to string a sentence together and get on Google to find the information you need for your homework – or even better – try going to a library. You seem to just expect to have this project laid out on a plate for you – how are you ever going to learn anything yourselves?

    Come on kids – you know you can do better

  23. Barbie said,

    this helped me alot. Iam a fith grader doing a report on her acomplishments and this was a lot of help. :)

  24. Barbie said,

    i <3 this website!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. Ashley said,

    this helped me a lot because i only need a little bit of information.
    thanks ♫

  26. Twilight Sparkle said,

    Seems legit. Princess Celestia will like dis. /() ()\ Brohoof.

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