Du Châtelet (1706-1749)

Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, la Marquise Du Châtelet

 

"Let us reflect a bit why, at no time in the course of so many centuries, a good tragedy, a good poem, a respected tale, a beautiful painting, a good book of physics has ever come from the hand of a woman."

- Preface to her translation of Mandeville's "Fable of the Bees" (Project Vox translation)


Émilie Du Châtelet was a French philosophe, author and translator active from the early 1730s until her untimely death in 1749. In addition to producing famous translations of works by authors such as Bernard Mandeville and Isaac Newton, Du Châtelet wrote a number of significant philosophical essays, letters and books. Her magnum opus, Institutions de Physique (Paris, 1740, first edition), or Foundations of Physics, circulated widely, generated heated debates, and was republished and translated into several other languages within two years of its original publication. She participated in the famous vis viva debate, concerning the best way to measure the force of a body and the best means of thinking about conservation principles. Her ideas were heavily represented in the most famous text of the French Enlightenment, the Encyclopédie of Diderot and D’Alembert, first published shortly after Du Châtelet’s death. Numerous biographies, books and plays have been written about her life and work in the two centuries since her death. In the early 21st century, her life and ideas have generated renewed interest. 

1.1 Biography

Émilie Du Châtelet was a French philosophe, author and translator who was active from the early 1730s until her tragic death in 1749 (she died six days after giving birth in her early 40s). Because of her well-known collaborations with Voltaire, which spanned much of her adult life, for generations Du Châtelet has been viewed primarily as a handmaiden to her much better known intellectual companion. Her accomplishments and achievements have often been subsumed under his, and as a result, even today she is often mentioned only within the context of Voltaire’s life and work during the period of the early French Enlightenment. Since they spent a number of years together at her chateau in Cirey hosting famous mathematicians, authors and philosophers from throughout Europe, there are many important events during this period that involve Du Châtelet’s joint work with Voltaire.

Place de Vosges, Paris

In recent years, however, the reception of Du Châtelet has been transformed. Far from being viewed as a mere appendage to the more famous work of Voltaire, scholars have begun to recognize the profound importance of Du Châtelet’s own philosophical works. One aspect of this transformation involves a potentially surprising feature of this period in intellectual and philosophical history. It might seem reasonable to assume that Du Châtelet’s own work has always been largely neglected in favor of the work of the more famous Voltaire. After all, Voltaire was arguably the most famous author in all of France, and one of the most celebrated in all of Europe, during various times in his long life. In this respect, Du Châtelet isn't alone: the number of readers who have encountered Candide, for instance, is orders of magnitude greater than the number who have encountered Leibniz, whose ideas that play famously lampoons. It might also seem reasonable that the various strictures faced by intellectual women like Du Châtelet in early Enlightenment Europe would have prevented her from having a significant impact on the philosophical conversation in her day. But this assumption, however reasonable it might seem, is false. In fact, scholars have recently shown that Du Châtelet’s work had a very significant influence on the philosophical and scientific conversations of the 1730s and 1740s. She was famous. Her works were published and republished in Paris, London, and Amsterdam; they were translated into German and Italian; and, they were discussed in the most important learned journals of the era, including the Memoirs des Trévoux , the Journal des Sçavans , and others. Perhaps most intriguingly, many of her ideas were represented in various sections of the Encyclopédie of Diderot and D'Alembert (this is an active area of current scholarly research).

This raises a conundrum: if Du Châtelet was famous during her lifetime, why was she considered little more than an assistant of Voltaire’s in later years, after her death? This question is one of the driving topics for future research on Du Châtelet and her legacy. To answer it, many related questions about the creation of the philosophical canon in the late 19th and early 20th centuries must also be raised and answered.

Unlike Voltaire, who famously served as a promoter of Newtonian ideas in France -- with his texts from the 1730s, Philosophical Letters and Elements of the Philosophy of Newton -- Du Châtelet sought to articulate a general philosophical system, one that would include the best ideas not only of the Newtonians in England and elsewhere, but also of the newly important Leibnizian movement centered in German-speaking Europe. Châtelet’s magum opus, the Institutions de Physique (Paris, 1740, first edition), or Foundations of Physics , presented this general system. It exhibited a detailed familiarity with the ideas of Newton and his followers, but also with Leibniz, Wolff and their new philosophical movement. As every student of eighteenth-century philosophy knows, from at least the time of the extremely popular and influential correspondence between Leibniz and the Newtonian Samuel Clarke (1717, first edition), philosophers and scholars viewed the ideas of the two discoverers of the integral and differential calculus as reflecting fundamentally opposed conceptions of nature and of the methods to be used in understanding it. It is therefore intriguing to note that Du Châtelet began to see past this opposition already in the late 1730s, indicating in her magnum opus that she intended to adopt methods and ideas from each of these camps, attempting to transcend the terms of the debate that separated them. For this reason, some scholars have regarded Du Châtelet as anticipating the philosophical attitude of Immanuel Kant later in the century. The Institutions covered a wide range of philosophical topics, from the basic principles of reasoning and our knowledge of God, to questions concerning the proper views of space, time, matter and the laws of nature. It provides long discussions of the latest research regarding gravity—including presentations of Galileo’s results and of Newton’s more comprehensive work—and insights into the right view of the forces of nature. In this way, the book presents detailed views concerning both topics that would later be considered part of physics, and topics that would later be considered part of metaphysics. Scholars have often suggested that Du Châtelet wished to provide a Leibnizian-inspired metaphysical foundation for a physics that was heavily Newtonian in character, but this interpretation is the subject of some debate.

Du Châtelet also participated in a number of important philosophical disputes in the 1740s. Perhaps the best known is her work within the so-called vis viva debate, concerning the proper methods for measuring the force of a body. This debate was begun with Leibniz’s criticisms of the Cartesian view of body in 1686. After criticizing the Cartesian views of the Secretary of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris, Jean-Jacques Dortous de Mairan, in 1740, Du Châtelet provoked Mairan into responding to her ideas concerning the forces of bodies. Once he did so, Du Châtelet wrote a rejoinder to his reply, thereby cleverly overcoming the barrier to the inclusion of women in the Academy’s proceedings and publications. Throughout the 1740s, the vis viva debate between Du Châtelet and Mairan was reprinted in various publications in French, translated into Italian and German, and widely discussed by philosophers in various venues. For instance, the debate was picked up and cited by the young Kant in 1747, in his very first publication. There are numerous other examples of the debates and conversations in which Du Châtelet participated.

 

For image sources and permissions see our image gallery

 

 

 

 

1.2 Portraits

Émilie Du Châtelet was a wealthy, fashionable, aristocratic woman—there are several extant portraits of her. Three of the key images on our website are particularly striking in their symbolism. The first is the portrait of Du Châtelet displayed on our project’s Home page. The portrait is based on another painting formerly attributed to Maurice Quentin de la Tour, and can now be found in the private collection of the Marquis de Breteuil. Other copies of this painting exist and some appear online, but they may be erroneously identified as the original. For more information on how we identified the correct image, see our Methodology page.  

 

Portrait after Maurice Quentin de la Tour

According to Patricia Fara (2002), this painting tells a tale of contradictions.  On the one hand, at an age when few women received tertiary education and when the field of natural philosophy was almost exclusively reserved for men, Du Châtelet was a gifted philosopher and mathematician published a major treatise, the Institutions de Physique [Foundations of Physics] under her own name. On the other hand, she lived the life of a wealthy aristocrat, enjoying all the pleasures that the social life of eighteenth century Paris could offer. She did not shun the social and marital responsibilities appropriate to her sex and rank at the time. Much like Cavendish in the previous century, she was also famous for her energetic personality, love of fashion and gambling, taste for extravagant costumes and expensive jewelry. The portrait reflects these two sides of her persona. At first glance, it communicates that Du Châtelet is a wealthy aristocratic woman: she is “elaborately dressed and coiffed, her ruffles in carefully coordinated colors reflecting the same attention to detail that she devoted to her rooms, where even the dog basket followed her blue and yellow decorative scheme.” (Fara 2002, p. 40). In contrast to this traditional display of wealth and femininity, Du Châtelet looks out at the viewer as if she is deep in thought. Her head rests on her hand, a contemplative pose usually reserved for male subjects. She is holding dividers (what we would today call a compass), indicating that she’s hard at work at mathematics, traditionally a male discipline. The open book in the foreground shows geometrical manuscripts. To the right of her, there is a quadrant, a scientific instrument used to measure a star’s altitude above the horizon.

Du Châtelet after Maurice Quentin de la Tour

 

Algarotti frontispiece

The second image is the frontispiece to Francesco Algarotti’s Il Newtonianismo per le dame, ovvero, dialoghi sopra la luce e i colori [Newtonianism for the ladies, or dialogues in light and colors], which was published in Venice in 1737. After visiting Du Châtelet’s chateau in Cirey, Algarotti wrote a commentary that presented Newtonian ideas concerning optics to a wide audience. The work presented five days of conversations in which a chevalier explained the latest scientific developments to a lady. The clear implication amongst Du Châtelet’s circle was that Algarotti had claimed to have explained Newtonianism to her. This interpretation was strongly reinforced by the striking resemblance between the woman depicted in the frontispiece and Du Châtelet herself. Although the woman lies in the center of the picture, she poses contentedly as the male figure explains something to her, his thumb and index finger pressed together as he makes a point. For her own part, when Du Châtelet published her magnum opus just three years later, it was neither a commentary nor a popular work, but rather a philosophical treatise.

Il Newtonianismo Per Le Dame, 1737 Venice

 

Voltaire frontispiece

The final image is the frontispiece to Voltaire’s Élemens de la Philosophie de Newton (1738), engraved by Jacob Folkema after Louis-Fabricius Dubourg. Appearing in Amsterdam in March of 1738, this edition was not published under Voltaire’s control and lacked some of the material he intended for the work (Voltaire 1992, 169-170). The engraving is packed with symbolism, as were many frontispieces at the time: they provided a powerful visual summary of the key arguments of a work. The Élemens identifies Voltaire as the only author, but the engraving can be interpreted as telling a different story. Voltaire sits at his desk dressed in an ancient Roman toga with a poet’s laurel wreath on his head. Above him, on the left, is the divine Newton, who sits atop a cloud and gazes down at the light ray emanating from the heavens. The ray of light shines down upon a mirror held aloft by Madame Du Châtelet, who reflects it down upon the page upon which Voltaire is writing at his desk. Other elements of the picture include books on the floor, a library in the background, mathematical instruments such as dividers and set squares (which were symbolic of natural philosophy and Freemasonry), and a pendulum and globe in the foreground.

What story does the picture tell? A prominent interpretation is that the engraving symbolizes two conflicting elements. First, it represents the intellectual debt that Voltaire owed to Du Châtelet: many scholars argue that there is strong evidence that Du Châtelet explained Newtonian science to Voltaire. Voltaire’s forward to the Élemens supports this interpretation: “‘The solid study that you have made of several new truths and the fruit of considerable work, are what I am offering to the Public for your glory.” At the same time, however, the image portrays Du Châtelet as merely reflecting the light of Newton’s ideas down to Voltaire, rather than playing the role of a philosophe on her own. It is especially significant that this frontispiece appeared just two years before Du Châtelet published her own major philosophical treatise.

Image forthcoming. 

 

References 

Fara, Patricia. 2002. "Images of Émilie du Châtelet."  Endeavour 26 (2): 39-40.

Voltaire. 1992. Eléments de la philosophie de Newton, The Complete Works of Voltaire, vol. 15. Edited by Robert Walters and W.H. Barber. Oxford: The Voltaire Foundation.

 

For image sources and permissions see our image gallery.

 

 

 

 

 

1.3 Chronology

For biographical details, see: Judith Zinsser. 2006. La Dame d’Esprit: A Biography of the Marquise Du Châtelet, New York: Viking.

Year

Event

1706

Du Châtelet (neé Gabrielle Émilie le Tonnelier de Breteuil) is born in Paris on December 17th. She is part of one of the highest-ranking aristocratic families in France. She spends her childhood at Hotel Dangeau, no. 12 Place Royal, today called the Place des Vosges, in what is now the Marais neighborhood of Paris.

1725

Du Châtelet marries Florent-Claude, Marquis Du Châtelet-Lomont, 12 June, at the cathedral of Notre Dame. A colonel in one of the king’s regiments, the Marquis hails from one of the oldest aristocratic families in Lorraine.

1726

Birth of first daughter, Gabrielle-Pauline, on June 30th.

1727

Birth of first son, Florent-Louise, on November 20th.

1733

Birth of second son, Francois-Victor, on April 11th.

1733

Du Châtelet is tutored in mathematics by Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis, mathematician and member of the Académie Royale de Sciences, Académie Française, and the Royal Society. They begin a life long intellectual friendship. 

1734

In 1734, Voltaire takes up residence at Du Châtelet's chateau at Cirey, which becomes a famous center of scholarship and a major destination for mathematicians, writers and philosophers from throughout Europe. It is closer to a mini Academy than to the kind of salons women often ran in this historical period.

1734

Second son François-Victor dies.

1735

In the autumn of 1735, Francesco Algarotti, a prominent Italian mathematician and scholar, visits Du Châtelet and Voltaire at Cirey for six weeks.

1736

Voltaire begins work on his Elémens de la Philosophie de Neuton with Du Châtelet’s assistance.

1737

On 23 August 1737, Du Châtelet anonymously submits her essay on the nature and propagation of fire (Dissertation sur la nature et la propagation du feu) for a prize essay competition at the Académie Royale des Sciences.

1737

Algarotti publishes his Newtonianismo per le dame (Newtonianism for the ladies) following his stay at Cirey. The work helps to shape Du Châtelet's future reputation as a mere translator and expositor of Newton’s ideas; its frontispiece depicts her as the recipient of the author’s teachings.

1738

In March, Voltaire's work Elémens de la Philosophie de Neuton is published in Amsterdam: incomplete, without authorization from Voltaire or the French Royal censor, and with the incorrect subtitle Mis a la portée de tout le monde (the work was reprinted in Amsterdam in April with permission).  It contains a frontispiece that was not included in other editions published this same year; it depicts Du Châtelet holding a mirror to reflect the light from Newton down to the author Voltaire, contributing to her reputation as an expositor of Newton, rather than a philosophe.

1739

Du Châtelet does not win the 1738 essay prize for her Dissertation sur la nature et la propagation du feu, but her work is published anonymously by the Académie in a volume with five other submissions. Her entry is also anonymously noted in the Journal de Trévoux and publicly reviewed in Desfontaines's Observations sur les écrits modernes.

1738

In September, the Journal des sçavans, a prestigious publication specializing in "Philosophy, Science and Arts," accepts Du Châtelet's anonymous review of Voltaire's Elémens.

1739

In January, the mathematician and natural philosopher Pierre Louise Maupertuis stays at Cirey and begins tutoring Du Châtelet in calculus.

1739

In May, Du Châtelet relocates to Brussels in order to conduct a legal dispute involving husband. Samuel König tutors her in mathematics, but their work is cut short due to personal disagreements.

1740

Du Châtelet anonymously publishes Institutions de Physique in Paris. It is a lengthy philosophical treatise discussing everything from the basic principles of knowledge to the nature of space and time and the understanding of natural phenomena associated with gravity, including the planetary orbits, the pendulum and free fall.

1741

In February 1741, Jean-Jacques Dortous de Mairan, the influential secretary of the Académie Royale des Sciences, replies to Du Châtelet's criticisms of his work on "vis viva" in her Institutions. Du Châtelet publishes his letter and her response in March. De Mairan's public engagement with Du Châtelet helps to establish her intellectual credibility.

1742

Du Châtelet publishes the second edition of her Institutions; this edition is published under her own name. The edition includes her debate with de Mairan on "vis viva" and an important frontispiece with her portrait.

1743

The second edition of the Institutions is fully translated into German and published in Halle and Leipzig. But the title is changed to: Der Frau Marquisinn von Chastellet Naturlehre an ihren Sohn, viz. "the doctrine of nature that the Marquise Du Châtelet gave to her son."

1743

The second edition of the Institutions is fully translated into Italian and published in Venice. Père François Jacquier, mathematician and co-editor of the famous Geneva “Jesuit” edition of Newton's Principia, most likely supervised the translation. The Italian title is closer to the original than the German: Istituzioni di Fisica di Madama la Marchesa du Chastelet Indiritte a suofi Gliuolo, since it retains her phrase "institutions of physics.”

1745

Du Châtelet is included in the 4th volume of the Bilder-Sal Hautiges Tages Lebender und durch Gelahrheit Beruhmter Schrifft-Steller (Portrait Gallery of Contemporary Authors Famous for their Learning). She was one of four women among a total of one hundred scholars believed to represent the best of Europe’s minds.

1746

Du Châtelet is elected to the Bologna Academy of Sciences. Laura Bassi, an Italian physicist and one of the first female academics, was also a member of the Academy and lectured at the University of Bologna. Bassi used Du Châtelet's Institutions in her classes. In the 1750s, Du Châtelet appeared in Italian books as the paragon of a learned woman.

1749

On the 10th of September, 1749, at the palace of Lunéville in Lorraine, Du Châtelet dies of a pulmonary embolism as a result of complications with the birth of her daughter, Stanislas-Adélaïde. She is buried at the Church of Saint Jacques. A black marble slab without identification marks her burial place today.

1751

Diderot and D'Alembert, editors of the Encyclopédie, the great symbol of the Enlightenment, credit Du Châtelet in the entry on Newtonianism. Recently, scholars such as Koffi Maglo have identified twelve articles in the Encyclopédie that copy directly from Du Châtelet's Institutions. The writer Samuel Formey, author of La belle Wolffian, contributed to many of these articles.

1756

In 1756, an incomplete edition of Du Châtelet's translation of, and commentary on, Newton's Principia appears. In 1759, Alexis-Claude Clairaut, mathematician and friend of Du Châtelet, arranges the full publication of the work. To this day, it remains the only complete French translation of Newton's magnum opus.

1778

Voltaire dies in his sleep on May 30, 1778, in Paris. He outlived Du Châtelet by twenty-nine years. Some of her manuscripts were carried along when his extensive personal library was brought to Russia by one of his most important correspondents, Catherine the Great. Those manuscripts remain as part of the Voltaire collection at the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg.

1779

Posthumous publication of Du Châtelet's Discours sur le Bonheur (Discourse on Happiness). The short text may be her most famous—it appeared in numerous translations and in many editions over the next two centuries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Primary sources guide

Institutions de Physique

During her relatively short intellectual career — circa 1730-1749— Du Châtelet published a major philosophical treatise, Institutions de Physique (Paris, 1740, first edition). The title is often translated Foundations of Physics, although some scholars argue that it should be translated somewhat more literally as Institutions of Physics. The use of the term “institutions” in French and English was common in this period, reflecting a long tradition in the early modern period of using the Latin equivalent. Obviously, these terms have a somewhat different connotation in contemporary usage. The Institutions was republished in London in 1741, and printed in a second, altered edition in Amsterdam in 1742. By the next year, it had been translated into both German and Italian.

Despite its obvious importance in mid-18th century physics and philosophy, Du Châtelet’s magnum opus has never been reprinted in a contemporary edition, and has never been translated into English. In 2009, the Du Châtelet biographer Judith Zinsser edited and published a partial translation of the text, so it remains the primary source for English readers today. See Zinsser, editor: Du Châtelet, Selected Philosophical and Scientific Writings (University of Chicago, 2009).

Institutions de Physique, 1740 Paris

Contents of Institutions

In the Institutions, Du Châtelet discusses a wide-ranging set of issues in what we would now call philosophy and physics, including such topics as our knowledge of the divine, the principle of sufficient reason, the laws of nature, the nature of motion, and the forces that lead to natural change. The text is famous for discussing ideas that originated with G.W. Leibniz and Christian Wolff, and for using the principle of sufficient reason often associated with their philosophical work. Many of her contemporaries, including the famous materialist La Mettrie, seemed to regard Du Châtelet as the primary interpreter and promoter of Leibnizian philosophical views in France. But her main work is equally famous for providing a detailed discussion and evaluation of ideas that originated with Isaac Newton and his followers. That combination is more remarkable than it might seem now, since the ideas of Leibniz and Newton were regarded as fundamentally opposed to one another by most of the major philosophical figures of the 18th century.


Other works

In addition to the Institutions, Du Châtelet wrote and published a number of other philosophical works. These include an anonymous Dissertation on Fire in 1738, an exchange on vis viva with the Secretary of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris, Jean-Jacques Dortous de Mairan, and the first modern translation of Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica / Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (London, 1687, first edition) — published in Paris in 1756 with a commentary that she co-wrote with the mathematician Alexis Clairaut. The translation remains the standard in French to this day.

Spreadsheet overview of Du Châtelet's works: Excel file

Dissertation sur la nature et la propagation du feu, 1744 Paris

Principes mathématiques de la philosophie naturelle, 1756 Paris

 

There is an extensive bibliography on Du Châtelet’s work written by Ana Rodrigues and published in Ruth Hagengruber, editor, Émilie Du Châtelet Between Leibniz and Newton (Dodrecht: Springer, 2012).

 

For image sources and permissions see our image gallery.

 

 

 

 

 

2.1 Primary sources – manuscripts

 

Manuscripts related to Institutions de Physique

Institutions de Physique [1738-1740]. Bibliothèque Nationale de France, ffr. 12.265.

Note: The National Library of France has a large bound volume of related manuscript items that concern the editing Châtelet did on drafts of her magnum opus before it was published in 1740. Although the catalogue lists this manuscript as bearing the date of 1738, in reality it contains items from at least 1738 through 1740.

 

Notes on physics

Nôtes sur la “Physique” par la Même. National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg, Voltaire Collection, Vol. IX: 123.

 

Commentary on, and translation of, Newton’s Principia Mathematica

Principes de la Philosophie Naturelle, par M. Newton, Traduits en Français par Mme la Marquise du Chastellet, avec un Commentaire sur les Propositions qui ont Rapport au Système du Monde. Bibliothèque Nationale: ffr. 12.266–12.268.

 

Essai sur l’Optique

Essai sur l’Optique. Handschriftenband. Universitätsbibliothek Basel: L I a 755, fo. 230–265.

Note: In 2006, Dr. Fritz Nagel found this copy of the manuscript in Basel. This version contains numerous corrections and additions to the text.

 

Essai sur l’Optique.

Note: Part of the October 2012 sale of Châtelet manuscripts by Christie’s; previously held in a private collection, Museé de Manuscrits et des Lettres, Paris; currently under litigation. A member of the Project Vox team, Bryce Gessell, a PhD student in Duke’s philosophy department, has transcribed the entire text.

 

Essai sur l’Optique, Chap. IV: de la Formation des Couleurs. National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg, Voltaire Collection, Vol. IX: 286.

 

 

Discours sur le Bonheur

Discours sur le Bonheur. Mazarine: no. 4.344.

Réflexions sur le Bonheur. Bibliothèque Nationale de France, ffr. 15.331.

 

On Liberty

Essai inédit de Mme du Châtelet, Chap. V: Sur la Liberté. National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg, Voltaire Collection, Vol. IX: 126.

 

Rational Grammar

Chap. VI: Des Mots en Général Considérés selon leurs Signification Grammaticale, Chap. VII: Des Verbes Auxiliaires; Chap. VIII: Des Mots qui Désignent les Opérations de Nôtre Entendement sur les Objets. National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg, Voltaire Collection, Vol. IX: 133.

 

Examinations of the Bible

(Digital scans of select manuscripts below are available courtesy of the Women in Science project at Michigan State University.)

Examen de la Genèse. Manuscripts non autographés. Bibliothèque de Troyes: no. 2376t1.

Examen du livre de Josué. Manuscripts non autographés. Bibliothèque de Troyes: no. 2376t2.

Examen du premier livre des Machabées. Manuscripts non autographés. Bibliothèque de Troyes: no. 2376t3.

Examen des livres du nouveau testament. Manuscripts non autographés. Bibliothèque de Troyes: no. 2377t1.

Examen des actes des apôtres. Manuscripts non autographés. Bibliothèque de Troyes: no. 2377t2.

Examen des actes des apôtres. Manuscripts non autographés. Bibliothèque de Troyes: no. 2377t2.

Preuves…Manuscripts non autographés. Bibliothèque de Troyes: no. 2378.

Brussels National Library, ms. 15188 and 15189.

 

Translation of The Fable of the Bees.

Traduction de la Fable des Abeilles de Mandeville. National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg, Voltaire Collection, Vol. IX: 153.

Préface de Cette Traduction. National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg, Voltaire Collection, Vol. IX: 217.

Préface de Mad. la Marquise du Chastellet à la Tête de sa Traduction de la Fable des Abeilles, et Dissertation sur Liberté. National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg, Voltaire Collection, vol. IX: 223.

Traduction de la Fable des Abeilles par Mme du Châtelet. National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg, Voltaire Collection, Vol. IX: 240.

 

Other manuscripts

Recueil de poësies diverses. Tome premier, année 1725 au mois d’avril. Bibliothèque de Troyes: no. 2375.

Lettres Autographés de la Marquise Du Châtelet. Bibliothèque Nationale: ffr. 12.269.

Sur “Descartes” par Mme Du Châtelet. National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg, Voltaire Collection, Vol. IX: 122.

Pensées de Madame du Châtelet. National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg, Voltaire Collection, Vol. IX: 150.

Lettre de *** à Mad. du Châtelet, 19 Octobre 1747. National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg, Voltaire Collection, Vol. IX: 152.

 

For image sources and permissions see our image gallery

 

 

 

 

2.2 Primary sources – published in Du Châtelet’s lifetime

 

Lettre sur les Eléments de la Philosophie de Newton

1738. "Lettre sur les Eléments de la Philosophie de Newton." Journal des Sçavans. September, pp. 534–541 (Paris edition).

1738. "Lettre sur les Eléments de la Philosophie de Newton." Journal des Sçavans. December, pp. 458–75 (Amsterdam edition).

Gallica link to Paris edition

PDF file

Bayerische StaatsBibliothek link to Amsterdam edition

PDF file

 

Reply to Voltairomanie

1738. “Reply to the Voltairomanie.” In Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire. Vol. 89. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 1969: D. app. 51, 508–12.

 

 

Dissertation sur la Nature et la Propagation du Feu

1739. "Dissertation sur la Nature et la Propagation du Feu." In Recueil des Pièces qui ont Remporté le Prix de l’Académie Royale des Sciences en 1738, edited by Académie Royale des Sciences, pp. 85–168. Paris: Imprimerie Royale.

1744. Dissertation sur la Nature et la Propagation du Feu. Paris: Prault Fils.

Note: Includes Du Chatelet's epistolary exchange with Jean-Jacques Dortous de Mairan, the secretary of the Académie Royale des Sciences in Paris.

Google Books link original from Lyon Public Library.

 

 

Institutions de Physique

1740. Institutions de Physique. Paris: Prault.

Note: This edition was published anonymously, and lacked a frontispiece.

ETH-Bibliothek Zürich link

Gallica link

Bayerische StaatsBibliothek link & Google Books link to BSB original

Google Books link to original from Lyon Public Library


 

 

1741. Institutions de Physique. Amsterdam: Pierre Mortier.

Note: This edition is anonymous.

 

1741. Institutions de Physique. London: Paul Vaillant.

Note: This edition is anonymous and contains a famous frontispiece depicting Châtelet.

 

1742. Institutions Physiques de Madame la Marquise du Chastellet Adressés à M. son Fils: Nouvelle Édition, Corrigée et Augmentée Considérablement par l’Auteur. Amsterdam: Aux dépens de la Compagnie.

Note: This second edition differs in various respects from the first; it was published under Châtelet’s name and contains a famous frontispiece depicting Châtelet. The title employs the old spelling of her name.

Bayerische StaatsBibliothek link & Google Books link to BSB original

Note: this is a high-quality, full color scan, with a decent image of the frontispiece. Other scans available online, such as that from the British Library, are inferior.

 

1743. Der Frau Marquisinn von Chastellet Naturlehre an ihren Sohn. Erster Theilnach der Zweyten Französischen Ausgabe Übersetzet von Wolfgang Balthasar Adolf von Steinwehr Prof. Publ. Ord. auf der Universitet zu Frankfurt an der Oder, Derselben Bibliothekarin, und der Königl. Preußischen Societät der Wissenschaften Mitglied. Halle/Leipzig: Rengerische Buchhandlung.

Bayerische StaatsBibliothek link & Google Books link to BSB original

 

1743. Istituzioni di Fisica di Madama la Marchesa du Chastelet Indiritte a suofi Gliuolo. Traduzione dal Linguaggio Francese nel Toscano, Accresciuta con la Dissertazione Sopra le Forze Motrizi di M. de Mairan. Venice: Presso Giambatista Pascali.

Note: Includes Du Chatelet's epistolary exchange with Jean-Jacques Dortous de Mairan, along with Mairan’s 1728 dissertation on the proper measure of the dead force of bodies, translated into Italian.

Internet Archive link & Google Books link to original from National Central Library of Florence

 

 

Exchange with Jean-Jacques Dortous de Mairan on vis viva 

1741. Réponse de Madame la Marquise du Chastellet à la Lettre que M. de Mairan, Secrétaire Perpétuel de l’Académie Royale des Sciences, lui a Écrite le 18 Février 1741 sur la Question des Forces Vives. Bruxelles: Foppens.

Note: Contains only the letter from Châtelet.

Gallica link

HathiTrust link to original from Universidad Complutense de Madrid

 

 

1741. Dortous de Mairan, Jean-Jacques. Lettre de M. de Mairan,... à Madame *** [la marquise du Chatelet] sur la question des forces vives, en réponse aux objections qu'elle lui fait sur ce sujet dans ses "Institutions de physique". Paris: Jombert.

Note: Contains only the letter from Mairan.

ETH-Bibliothek Zürich link

HathiTrust link to original from Universidad Complutense de Madrid

 

1741. Zwo Schriften, Welche von der Frau Marquise von Chatelet, Gebohrener Baronessinn von Breteuil, und dem Herrn von Mairan, Beständigem Sekretär bei der Französischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, das Maaß der Lebendigen Kräfte Betreffend, Gewechselt Worden: aus dem Französischen Übersetzt von Louise Adelgunde Victoria Gottsched, geb. Kulmus. Leipzig: Bernh. Breitkopf.

Note: German translation of both letters.

Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, University and State Library Saxony-Anhalt link

 

1743. Istituzioni di Fisica di Madama la Marchesa du Chastelet Indiritte a suofi Gliuolo. Traduzione dal Linguaggio Francese nel Toscano, Accresciuta con la Dissertazione Sopra le Forze Motrizi di M. de Mairan. Venice: Presso Giambatista Pascali.

Note: Contains Italian translation of both letters.

Internet Archive link & Google Books link to original from National Central Library of Florence

 

1744. Dissertation sur la Nature et la Propagation du Feu (Lettre de M. de Mairan ... à Madame la Marquise Du Chastellet. Sur la question des Forces Vives, etc.-Réponse de Madame la Marquise Du Chastelet à la lettre que M. de Mairan ... lui a écrite ... sur la question des forces vives). Paris: Prault Fils.

Note: Contains a reprint of both letters.

Google Books link to original from Lyon Public Library

 

 

Letter to J. Jurin

1747. "Mémoire Touchant les Forces Vives Adresseè en Forme de Lettre à M. Jurin par Madame Ureteüil Du Chastellet." In Memorie Sopra la Fisica e Istoria Naturale di Diversi Valentuomini, edited by Carlantonio Giuliani. Lucca: Benedini. Vol. 3, pp. 75–84.

Note: A work containing texts in Latin, French and Italian; Châtelet’s letter to Jurin is signed from Cirey, 30 May 1744.

Online digitization & download:

Bayerische StaatsBibliothek Digital link

 

For image sources and permissons see our image gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.3 Primary sources – published posthumously

 

The only edition of a number of Du Châtelet’s works in English:

2009. Judith Zinsser, editor; Isabelle Bour and Judith Zinsser, translators. Emilie Du Châtelet: Selected Philosophical and Scientific Writings. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

 

The edition contains selections from the following works:

Bernard Mandeville’s The Fable of the Bees

Dissertation on the Nature and Propagation of Fire

Foundations of Physics

Note: Contains English translations of selections from the 1740 Paris edition. Selections include Preface, and Chapters 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 11 and 21. Chapter 3 is listed as translated, but is not included in the edition.

Examinations of the Bible

Commentary on Newton’s Principia

Discourse on Happiness

 

 

Institutions de Physiques

1806. "De l’existence de Dieu" In Lettres Inédites de Madame la Marquise du Chastelet a M. le Comte d'Argental: Auxquelles on a Joint une Dissertation sur l'Existence de Dieu, edited by Claude Hochet. Paris: Chez Xhrouet.

Note: Includes Dissertation sur l'existence de Dieu (Ch. 2 of Institutions de Physique) and Réflexions sur le Bonnheur.

Gallica link

Google Books link to original from Oxford University Library

 

1988. Institutions Physiques: Nouvelle Édition. Published as a volume in Christiaan Wolff, Gesammelte Werke, ed. Jean Ecole 28, Abt. 3: Materialien und Dokumente. Hildesheim, Zürich, New York: Olms.

Note: Facsimile reprint of the 1742 Amsterdam edition.

 

2009. Judith Zinsser, editor; Isabelle Bour and Judith Zinsser, translators. Emilie Du Châtelet: Selected Philosophical and Scientific Writings. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Note: Contains English translations of selections from the 1740 Paris edition. Selections include Preface, and Chapters 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 11 and 21. Chapter 3 is listed as translated, but is not included in the edition.

 

Lettre sur les Eléments de la Philosophie de Newton

1968. "Lettre sur les 'Elements de la Philosophie de Newton'." In The Complete Works of Voltaire, Vol. 84, edited by Theodore Besterman, pp. TBC. Geneva & Toronto: Institut et Musée Voltaire; University of Toronto Press.

 

Dissertation sur la Nature et la Propagation du Feu

1752. "Dissertation sur la Nature et la Propagation du Feu." In Recueil des Pièces qui ont Remporté le Prix de l’Académie Royale des Sciences Depuis leur Fondation jusqu’à Présent, avec les Pièces qui y sont Concouru, Depuis 1738 jusqu’en 1740: Tome Quatrième, Contenant les Pièces Depuis 1738 jusqu’en 1740, edited by Académie Royale des Sciences. Paris: Gabriel Martin, J. B. Coignard, Hippolyte-Louis Guérin, Charles-Antoine Jombert.

Note: Mentions of Du Châtelet and her work appear on pages Pièces contenues (her name), 85 (mention), 87-170 (Dissertation), and 220-221 (her requested changes).

Google Books link to original from National Library of the Czech Republic

Hathi Trust link to original from Universidad Complutense de Madrid 

 

2009. Judith Zinsser, editor; Isabelle Bour and Judith Zinsser, translators. Emilie Du Châtelet: Selected Philosophical and Scientific Writings. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

 

Translation of, and commentary on, Newton’s Principia Mathematica

1756. Isaac Newton; Émilie Du Châtelet, translator. Principes Mathématiques de la Philosophie Naturelle: par Feue Madame la Marquise Du Chastellet. 2 Vols. Paris: Desaint & Saillant.

Note: Incomplete edition.

ETH Bibliothek Zürich link

Table of contents link

 

 

1759. Isaac Newton; Emilie Du Châtelet, translator. Principes Mathématiques de la Philosophie Naturelle: par Feue Madame la Marquise Du Chastellet. 2 Vols. Paris: Desaint & Saillant.

Note: Complete edition. The second volume includes Du Châtelet’s “Exposition Abrégée du Système du Monde, et Explication des Principaux Phénomènes Astronomiques Tirée des Principes de M. Newton.” See table of contents link below.  

ETH Bibliothek Zürich link

Table of contents link

HathiTrust link to original from Universidad Complutense de Madrid

Google Books link to Volume 1 from the Lyon Public Library

Google Books link to Volume 2 from the Bavarian State Library

 

1990. Isaac Newton; Du Châtelet, translator. Principes Mathématiques de la Philosophie Naturelle. Sceaux: Jacques Gabay.

Note: Facsimile reprint.

Gallica links to Volume 1 and Volume 2

 

2009. Judith Zinsser, editor; Isabelle Bour and Judith Zinsser, translators. Emilie Du Châtelet: Selected Philosophical and Scientific Writings. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

 

Discours (or, Réflexions) sur le Bonheur

1779. "Discours sur le Bonheur." In Huitième Recueil philosophique et littéraire de la Société Typographique de Bouillon. Tome 8, pp. 1-78. Bouillon: Société Typographique de Bouillon.

Gallica link

 

1796. "Réflexions sur le Bonheur." In Opuscules Philosophiques et Littéraires, la Plupart Posthumes ou Inédits, edited by Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Suard and Simon-Jérôme de Bourlet Vauxcelles, pp. 1–40. Paris: De l’Imprimerie de Chevet.

Bayerische StaatsBibliothek link & Google Books link to BSB original
Gallica link

 

1806. "De l’existence de Dieu" In Lettres Inédites de Madame la Marquise du Chastelet a M. le Comte d'Argental: Auxquelles on a Joint une Dissertation sur l'Existence de Dieu, edited by Claude Hochet. Paris: Chez Xhrouet.

Note: Includes Dissertation sur l'existence de Dieu (Ch. 2 of Institutions de Physique) and Les Réflexions sur le Bonnheur.

Gallica link

Google Books link to original from Oxford University Library

 

1958. Discours sur le Bonheur. Geneva: Institut et Musée Voltaire.

1961. Discours sur le Bonheur: Introduction et Notes de Robert Mauzi. Paris: Les Belles-Lettres.

Note: Critical edition.

 

1992. Discorso sulla Felicità. Edited and translated by Maria Cristina Leuzzi, with a note by Giuseppe Scaraffia. Palermo: Sellerio.

Note: Italian translation. 

 

1996. Discurso Sobre la Felicidad y Correspondencia. Edited by Isabel Morant Deusa. Madrid: Cátedra Universitat de València, Instituto de la Mujer.

Note: Spanish translation. 

 

1997. Discours sur le Bonheur. Préface d’Elisabeth Badinter. Paris: Edition Payot et Rivages.

 

1999. Acerca de la Felicidad. Translated by Luis Hernán Rodríguez Felder.  Buenos Aires: Imaginador.

Note: Spanish translation. 

 

2009. Judith Zinsser, editor; Isabelle Bour and Judith Zinsser, translators. Emilie Du Châtelet: Selected Philosophical and Scientific Writings. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

 

Examinations of the Bible

1792. Doutes sur les Religions Révélées Adressées à Voltaire, par Émilie Du Châtelet: Ouvrage Posthume. Paris.

Gallica link

1941. "Examen de la Genèse." In Voltaire and Madame du Châtelet: An Essay on the Intellectual Activity at Cirey, edited by Ira O. Wade. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

2011. Schwarzbach, Bertram E, ed. Examens de la Bible. Paris: H. Champion.

2009. Judith Zinsser, editor; Isabelle Bour and Judith Zinsser, translators. Emilie Du Châtelet: Selected Philosophical and Scientific Writings. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

 

Essai sur l’Optique

1947. Chapter Four, “De la Formation des Couleurs." In Studies on Voltaire. With Some Unpublished Papers of Mme. du Châtelet, edited by Ira O. Wade. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Note: Contains only chapter four of the “Essai.” Transcribed from the Voltaire Collection in the National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg.

 

De la Liberté

1947. "De la liberté." In Studies on Voltaire. With Some Unpublished Papers of Mme. du Châtelet, edited by Ira O. Wade. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

1989. Critical edition of the Traité de métaphysique and Appendix I. In Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire, edited by William H. Barber. Vol. 14. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation.

 

Grammaire Raisonnée

1947. "Grammaire Raisonnée." Portions published in Studies on Voltaire. With Some Unpublished Papers of Mme. du Châtelet, edited by Ira O. Wade. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

 

Translation of Mandeville’s La Fable des Abeilles

1947. "Mme. du Châtelet’s Translation of the Fable of the Bees." In Studies on Voltaire. With Some Unpublished Papers of Mme. du Châtelet, edited by Ira O. Wade. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

2009. Judith Zinsser, editor; Isabelle Bour and Judith Zinsser, translators. Emilie Du Châtelet: Selected Philosophical and Scientific Writings. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

 

Other works

Trapnell, William H, ed. 2001. Six discours sur les miracles de Notre Sauveur: Deux Traductions Manuscrites de XVIIIe Siecle dont une de Mme Du Chatelet (by Thomas Woolston). Paris: H. Champion.

Note: Zinsser (2009) pg. 25 notes that this includes an adapted translation of Woolston’s Six Discours by Du Châtelet. Manuscript located in the Voltaire Collection, National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg, vol. 9, 122–285.

 

For image sources and permissions see our image gallery

 

 

 

 

 

2.4 Primary sources - the Encyclopédie

 

Encyclopedia entries that include material from Châtelet’s Institutions

Research by Koffi Maglo, Glenn Roe, and others, has shown that at least twelve entries in the Encyclopedia include material from Châtelet’s Institutions. The following six entries include material copied, without attribution, from her work:

  1. Espace
  2. Hypothèse
  3. Mouvement
  4. Pesanteur
  5. Repos
  6. Tem[p]s

Among these, the entry on space (1) includes a final paragraph written by D’Alembert which cites Châtelet, and the entry on gravity (4) is partially copied from her Institutions.

The following six entries include quotations from the Institutions:

  1. Continu
  2. Contradiction
  3. Divisibilité
  4. Pendule
  5. Suffisante raison
  6. Vitesse

As the list indicates, the Encyclopédistes used her Institutions for information on a wide range of topics, and not merely as providing a commentary on Newton’s work.

 

Reference

2008. Maglo, Koffi. “Mme Du Chatelet, l’Encyclopédie, et la philosophie des sciences.” In Émilie Du Châtelet: eclairages et documents nouveaux. Ferney-Voltaire: Centre International D’Étude Du XVIIIE Siècle.

 

 

“Newtonianism” entry

The entry on Newtonianism or the Newtonian Philosophy in Diderot and D’Alembert’s famous Encyclopedia helped to solidify Madame Du Châtelet’s reputation as a commentator on Newton, and as his translator. This is ironic, since the Encyclopedia itself contained at least 12 entries that were copied largely from her magnum opus.

PDF file​

 

Reference

1765. “Newtonianisme ou Philosophie Newtonienne.” In Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, edited by Jean Le Rond d’Alembert and Denis Diderot. Vol. 11, pp. 122-125. Paris: Briasson.

ARTFL Encyclopédie Project link

Includes links to images of the microfiche version of the original Paris edition produced by IDC (Leiden, The Netherlands).  Du Châtelet is mentioned on pg. 123.

 

English translation

D'Alembert, Jean Le Rond. "Newtonianism or Newtonian Philosophy." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Terry Stancliffe. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2015. Originally published as "Newtonianisme, ou Philosophie Newtonienne," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 11:122 (Paris, 1765).

Michigan translation link

The source of the Michigan translation is the ARTFL Encyclopédie Project. The Editor’s Introduction states that the Project digitized the first printing of the Paris edition.

 

Note on editions

There were many editions and contested re-editions of the Encyclopédie in several formats, published in various locations.

 

Neûchatel re-edition

1777-1780. A Neûchatel: Chez Faulche.

Du Châtelet is mentioned on pg. 123.

HathiTrust link

Bayerische StaatsBibliothek link to copy 1 and link to copy 2

 

Geneva re-edition 

1777. A Genève: Chez Pellet.

Article appears in Vol. 22, pp. 947- 952. Du Châtelet is mentioned on pg. 948.

ETH-Zürich link 

 

Lausanne and Berne re-edition 

1780-1782. A Lausanne et a Berne: Chez les sociétés typographiques.

Article appears in Vol. 22, pp. 413-418. Du Châtelet is mentioned on pg. 414.

 

For image sources and permissions see our image gallery

 

 

 

 

 

2.5 Primary sources - reviews by contemporaries

Madame Du Châtelet’s work circulated widely in Europe, reaching audiences in England, France, Holland, Italy, Prussia, Switzerland, and elsewhere. Her magnum opus, Institutions de physique, was published in French, German, and Italian; various French editions were published in Amsterdam, London and Paris. Reviews of her work, and other kinds of engagement with it, appeared in English, French, Italian and German during her lifetime. These reviews may assist students and scholars in determining how important 18th century figures outside of France—such as Johann Bernoulli II, Leonard Euler, Immanuel Kant, and Christian Wolff—first encountered her work. For instance, one possibility is that Kant read about her philosophy in the famous Göttingen journal listed below. He then referred to Chatelet in his very first publication, the Thoughts on the True Estimation of Living Forces, in 1747. With non-canonical figures such as Châtelet, much research on the circulation of their ideas remains to be done.

Spreadsheet overview of reviews below: Excel file

 

Journal de Trévoux

Also known as Mémoires pour l'Histoire des Sciences & des beaux-Arts or the Mémoires de Trévoux, this was an influential publication printed by the Jesuits on a monthly basis in France (1701-1782). The journal published critical reviews of scholarship.

 

1739. Journal de Trévoux: ou, Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire des sciences et des arts. Paris: Chaubert. May, pp. 3134-3135.

Note: Contains notification of Du Châtelet's and Voltaire's entries in the 1738 Académie competition on the Nature of Fire.

HathiTrust link to Slatkine facsimile reprint. Geneva, 1968. Vol. 39, pg. 288.

PDF file

 

1741. Journal de Trévoux: ou, Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire des sciences et des arts. Paris: Chaubert. Articles LXVI & LXVII, August, pp. 1381-1402. 

Note: Contains discussion of, and excerpts from, Mairan’s letter in reply to Du Châtelet’s criticism of his views in the 1740 edition of her Institutions; and then on pages 1390-1402, we find discussion of, and excerpts from, her retort. This discussion openly notes that the person in question is in fact Du Châtelet, even though her name is not listed on either his reply or on her retort in their official published versions. The 1740 edition of her Institutions was published anonymously.

HathiTrust link to Slatkine facsimile reprint. Geneva, 1968.  Vol. 41, pg. 349-354.

PDF file

 

1741. Journal de Trévoux: ou, Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire des sciences et des arts. Paris: Chaubert. Article XLVI, May, pp. 894-927.

Note: The article discusses each chapter of Institutions in the London edition of 1741; it is a very long book review. It begins by praising the anonymous author of this work for the finesse and style of the writing, noting that these are rare qualities. The work is written for her son and it involves an approachable style throughout as a result. It is concerned with the ideas of Descartes and Newton, but it also discusses the ideas of Leibniz, who is still little known in France. The author promises her son (it doesn’t say her!) a “physique” on the model of Rohault, but more complete; it is true that Rohault is not complete. The author deals well with Descartes, noting that just as it is unfair for the Cartesians to regard “attraction” as a mere hypothesis, it is unfair for the Newtonians to regard it as a property of matter. This author believes that hypotheses are necessary in “physique”—they seem to think that she has a subtle view of this issue.

HathiTrust link to Slatkine facsimile reprint. Geneva, 1968, vol. 41, pp. 228-236.

PDF file

 

1741. Journal de Trévoux: ou, Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire des sciences et des arts. June 1741, Paris: Chaubert. Article LVI, June, pp. 1073-1101.

Note: Discusses or reviews Mairan’s Dissertation sur l’estimation et la measur des forces motrices des corps, Paris, 1741. Du Châtelet is explicitly mentioned on page 1100 (and maybe elsewhere).

HathiTrust link to Slatkine facsimile reprint. Geneva, 1968, vol. 41, pp. 271-279.

PDF file

 

1746. Journal de Trévoux: ou, Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire des sciences et des arts. September 1746. Paris: Chaubert. Article XCI, September, pp. 1848-1850.

HathiTrust link to Slatkine facsimile reprint. Geneva, 1968, vol. 46, pg. 464.

PDF file

 

 

Journal des Sçavans

Later renamed Journal des Savants, this journal was one of the earliest and most influential academic journals published in early modern Europe – it first appeared in 1665 and is still published today. In the 1700s, the journal was published in two editions, in Paris and Amsterdam. The two locations had different pagination and did not always include the same content each month. In addition, it appears that there were two different Paris printings of the journal, with different paginations (research forthcoming).

Importantly, the journal published an extensive two-part review of Du Châtelet’s Institutions de Physique in both its editions. The reviews appeared at different times in the two editions, first in Paris and then in Amsterdam:

 

Date

Location

Content

December 1740

Paris

Review part 1

March 1741

Paris

Review part 2

March 1741

Amsterdam

Review part 1

May 1741

Amsterdam

Review part 2

 

Review part 1 – Paris references

1740. Journal des Sçavans. Paris: Chaubert. December: pp. 737-755. 

Gallica link

PDF file​

1740. Journal des Sçavans. Paris: Chaubert. December: pp. 2143-2198.

HathiTrust link

PDF file

 

Review part 1 – Amsterdam reference

1741. Journal des Sçavans. Amsterdam: Janssons. Tôme 123 (1), Janvier-Avril. March: pp. 291-331.

Note: There is also a mention of the Institutions in February, on pg. 278.

Bayerische StaatsBibliothek digital link

PDF file​

 

Review part 2 – Paris references

1741. Journal des Sçavans. Paris: Chaubert. March, pp. 135-153.

Gallica link

PDF file

1741. Journal des Sçavans. Paris: Chaubert. March: pp. 399-456.

HathiTrust link

PDF file​

 

Review part 2 – Amsterdam reference

1741. Journal des Sçavans. Amsterdam: Janssons. Tôme 124 (2), Mai - Aout. May: pg. 65-107. 

Bayerische StaatsBibliothek digital link

PDF file

 

 

Göttingische Zeitungen von gelehrten Sachen

The journal is the oldest still published academic journal in German scholarship. It first appeared in 1739 and is published today under the name Göttingischen Gelehrten Anzeigen. The journal published notices and articles discussing Du Châtelet’s essay on fire and her Institutions.

The journal has been digitized by University of Göttingen digital

 

1739. Göttingische Zeitungen von gelehrten Sachen. 31 August: pp. 611 & 883-884. Göttingen: Im Verlag der privilegiirten Universitets Buchhandlung.

Note: Discusses the prize essay on fire by the Académie, noting that Euler won the prize, and that there are other essays in the book, including one by a Cartesian—a follower of Malebranche in fact—named P. Lozeran de Fese and another by someone else. Then there are two more essays: the first is by “Marquise du Châtelet,” and the other is by “Herrn Voltaire.” It says that they already discussed her essay on page 611. And on page 611, from 31 August 1739, in the same periodical, it says that the “Marquise du Châtelet” wrote an essay founded on the concepts of Newton, s’Gravesande and Boerhaave.

 

1741. Göttingische Zeitungen von gelehrten Sachen. 6 April: pg. 233. Göttingen: Im Verlag der privilegiirten Universitets Buchhandlung.

Note: The article notes that “Die Marquise Du Châtelet, eine grosse Liebhaberin der Naturlehre, worinnen sie sonst des Newtons grundlagen gefolgt und einige proben den der Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Paris geaussert hat unlangst institutions de physique nach den Leibnizianischen und Wolffianischen grundlehren in 8. heraus gegeben. Da sie eine grosse K[?]onnerin des herrn von Voltaire ist, so scheinet sie dennoch hiedurch von seiner Meinung abzugehen, das Newton ein grosserer Weltweise, als Leibniz gewesen.”

 

1742. Göttingische Zeitungen von gelehrten Sachen. 29 January: pp. 66-68. Göttingen: Im Verlag der privilegiirten Universitets Buchhandlung.

Note: Discusses the Institutions de Physique, attributing it to Madame Du Châtelet, noting that the society of booksellers in Amsterdam brought out a new edition. But first it notes that Voltaire published an essay in the 72nd part of the Bibliotheque raisonée entitled “Exposition du livre institutions de physique, dans laquelle on examine les idees de Leibnitz.”

 

 

Other contemporary reviews

1739. Observations sue les écrits modernes. Paris: Chaubert. Article CCLXIII. July: pp. 169-188.

Note: Pierre Desfontaines's critical review of Du Châtelet's essay on fire. HathiTrust is missing a page. The PDF is a scan of the Slatkine reprint held by Duke University Library. Geneva, 1968, vol. 3, pg. 138-143.

HathiTrust link

PDF file

 

Brucker, Johann Jakob. 1745. Bilder-Sal heutiges Tages lebender und durch Gelahrtheit berühmter Schriftsteller. Vol. 4. Augsburg: Hais. [No pagination.]

Note: Du Châtelet was included in the 4th volume of the “Portrait Gallery of Contemporary Authors Famous for their Learning.” She was one of four women among a total of one hundred scholars believed to represent the best of Europe’s savants (intellectuals). The great mathematician Johann Bernoulli acted as the agent for the editor and Voltaire contributed a short account of her life.

Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

PDF file

 

1746. Le journal universel, ou mémoires pour servir à l'histoire politique civile, ecclésiastique & littéraire du XVIII. siècle. Utrecht: Lobedanius. Tôme X. August: pp. 411-421.

Note: Article on the subject of women scholars. It praises Du Châtelet’s scholarship and her election to the Bologna Academy of Sciences (pp. 417-421). 

Bayerische StaatsBibliothek link

PDF file

 

For image sources and permissions see our image gallery.

 

 

 

 

 

3. Secondary sources guide

The following reference list focuses on scholarship that is most relevant to philosophy. The list is by no means exhaustive, as Du Châtelet is a very popular figure in many disciplines and the scholarly literature is vast. There has never been a monograph on Du Châtelet written from an analytic philosophy perspective in English, although new scholarship is forthcoming.

 

An extensive bibliography created by Ana Rodrigues is available in:

Hagengruber, Ruth, ed. 2012. Émilie Du Châtelet: Between Leibniz and Newton. Dordrecht: Springer.



Introductory resources

Some introductory resources for students and instructors who are just starting to explore Du Châtelet's philosophy are:

Judith Zinsser's introduction to her edition Selected Philosophical and Scientific Writings (2009).

Karen Detlefsen's article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2014).



Edited collections

Recent edited collections which include essays on various aspects of Du Châtelet's life and work, including her natural philosophy:

De Gandt, François, ed. 2001. Cirey Dans la Vie Intellectual: La Réception de Newton en France. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation.

Hagengruber, Ruth, ed. 2012. Émilie Du Châtelet: Between Leibniz and Newton. Dordrecht: Springer.

Kölving, Ulla, and Olivier Courcelle. 2008. Émilie Du Châtelet: Éclairages & Documents Nouveaux. Paris: Publication du Centre International d'Étude du XVIIIe Siècle 21.

O'Neill, Eileen, and Marcy Lascano, eds. Forthcoming. Feminist History of Philosophy: The Recovery and Evaluation of Women's Philosophical Thought. Dordrecht: Springer.

Zinsser, Judith and Julie Chandler Hayes. 2006. Émilie du Châtelet: Rewriting Enlightenment Philosophy and Science. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation.

 

 

 

3.1 Secondary sources

Barber, William H. 1967. "Madame Du Châtelet and Leibnizianism: The Genesis of the Institutions de Physique.” In The Age of Enlightenment: Studies Presented to Theodore Besterman. Edinburgh & London: St. Andrews University Press.

Brunet, Pierre. 1931. L’introduction des Théories de Newton en France au XVIII Siècle. Paris: A. Blanchard.

Cohen, I. Bernard. 1968. "The French Translation of Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica 1756, 1759." Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Sciences, 84–85: 260–290.

Detlefsen, Karen. 2014. "Émilie Du Châtelet." In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Ehrman, Esther. 1986. Mme Du Châtelet: Scientist, Philosopher and Feminist of the Enlightenment. Leamington Spa: Berg.

Gandt, François de, ed. 2001. Cirey dans la Vie Intellectuel: La Réception de Newton en France. Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century, 2001: 11. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation.

Gardiner, L. (1984). "Women in Science." In French Women and the Age of Enlightenment, edited by S. Spencer. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Gorbatov, I. 2007. "From Paris to St. Petersburg: Voltaire’s Library in Russia." Libraries & the Cultural Record 42: 308-324.

Greenberg, J. 1986. "Mathematical Physics in Eighteenth-Century France." Isis 77: 59–78.

Guerlac, Henry. 1981. Newton on the Continent. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Hagengruber, Ruth, ed. 2012. Émilie Du Châtelet Between Leibniz and Newton>. Dordrecht: Springer.

Hankins, T. L. 1965. "Eighteenth-Century Attempts to Solve the Vis Viva Controversy." Isis 56: 581–592.

Hankins, T. L. 1985. Science and the Enlightenment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Harth, E. 1992. Cartesian Women: Versions and Subversions of Rational Discourse in the Old Regime. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Hutton, Sarah. 2004. “Émilie Du Châtelet's 'Institutions de Physique' as a Document in the History of French Newtonianism." Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 35: 515 – 531.

Iltis, Carolyn. 1977. "Madame Du Châtelet’s Metaphysics and Mechanics." Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 8: 29–48.

Janik, L.G. 1982. "Searching for the Metaphysics of Science: the Structure and Composition of Mme. Du Châtelet’s Institutions de Physique, 1737-1740." Studies on Voltaire and the 18th Century 201: 85-113.

Kolving, Ulla and Olivier Courcelle, eds. 2008. Émilie Du Châtelet: Éclairages et Documents Nouveaux. Ferney-Voltaire: Centre International d’Étude du XVIIIi-ème Siècle.

O’Neill, Eileen and Marcy Lascano, eds. (Forthcoming). Feminist History of Philosophy: The Recovery and Evaluation of Women's Philosophical Thought. Springer.

Sutton, Geoffrey. 1995 Science for a Polite Society: gender, culture and the demonstration of Enlightenment. Boulder and Oxford: Westview Press. See especially Chapter Seven, which takes Châtelet as the representative of the Enlightenment.

Taton, R. 1969. "Madame Du Châtelet, Traductrice de Newton." Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Sciences 22: 185–210.

Taton, R. 1971. "Châtelet, Gabrielle-Émilie le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise du." In Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. III, edited by C.C. Gillispie. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Terrall, Mary. 1995. "Émilie Du Châtelet and the Gendering of Science." History of Science 33: 283–310.

Terrall, Mary. 1999. "Mathematics, Metaphysics and the Gendering of Science in France." In The Sciences in Enlightened Europe, edited by William Clark, Jan Golinski and Simon Schaffer. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Terrall, Mary. 2004. "Vis Viva Revisited." History of Science 42 (2004): 189-209.

Wade, Ira O. 1941. Voltaire and Madame Du Châtelet: an Essay on the Intellectual Activity at Cirey. Princeton University Press.

Wade, Ira O. 1947. Studies on Voltaire with Some Unpublished Papers of Madame Du Châtelet. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Zissner, Judith. 2001. "Translating Newton’s Principia: The Marquise Du Châtelet’s Revision and Additions for a French Audience." Notes and Records of the Royal Society 55: 227–245.

Zinsser, Judith and Julie C. Hayes, eds. 2006. Émilie Du Châtelet: Rewriting Enlightenment Philosophy and Science. Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century. Oxford.

Zinsser, Judith. 2006. La Dame d’Esprit: A Biography of the Marquise Du Châtelet. New York: Viking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Philosophy & Teaching

This section is forthcoming. Our team is working with the Advisory Board on materials interpreting Du Châtelet’s philosophical work and accompanying teaching materials. In the meantime, please see the Teaching section of the website for sample syllabi.

 

Videos

Project Vox has partnered with the Wireless Philosophy project to create educational videos on various topics related to the women philosophers. Please subscribe to our Newsletter to stay on top of new video resources!

Du Chatelet, Part 1  - Principle of Sufficient Reason

Du Chatelet, Part 2  - Principle of Sufficient Reason con’t.

 

 

 

 

5. Correspondence guide

Du Châtelet was a prolific correspondent in the Republic of Letters, exchanging numerous letters with other natural philosophers, scholars and literati across Europe, as well as other members of the aristocracy and her personal friends.

A 1958 two-volume critical edition of her correspondence, Les Lettres de la Marquise du Châtelet, edited by Theodore Besterman, contains 486 of the letters, written by Du Châtelet to 38 correspondents. It is customary to cite letters in this edition with the volume and page number, or with the letter number only. For previous partial editions of Du Châtelet’s correspondence, please see the references at the end of this section.

Spreadsheet overview: Excel file

Among the correspondents in this edition, notable natural philosophers and mathematicians include:

Scholar

Number of letters

Francesco Algarotti

18

Johann II Bernoulli

43

Frederick the Great

20

François Jacquier

5

James Jurin

2

Jean Jacques Dortous de Mairan

1

Pierre Louis Moreau du Maupertuis

76

Voltaire

1

Christian Wolff

1

 

Forthcoming editions

Currently, there is no comprehensive critical edition of letters written to Du Châtelet, though some of these are available in other sources and have been digitized (see following sections). There are also numerous references to Du Châtelet in letters written by various scholars to each other.

An international group of scholars from the Société Voltaire and the Centre international d’étude du XVIIIsiècle, under the leadership of Ulla Kölving and André Magnan, is now working on a new complete edition of Du Châtelet’s correspondence.

Ruth Hagengruber, with the assistance of Ana Rodrigues and others, is preparing the letters and manuscripts in the Voltaire Collection, St. Petersburg, National Library of Russia, for publication.

 

English translations

Six of the letters from Pierre Louis Moreau du Maupertuis in the Besterman edition have been translated into English. Isabelle Bour and Judith Zinsser translated three letters (nos. 73, 122, 151) that appear in Émilie Du Châtelet: Selected Philosophical and Scientific Writings (2009).

Project Vox translation of another three letters (nos. 124, 126, 129) is forthcoming

 

Besterman online availability

All of Du Châtelet's correspondence from the 1958 Besterman edition is available digitally as part of the Electronic Enlightenment project, a proprietary research database accessible through some academic institutions.

The Besterman edition has also been scanned and is available via the Women in Science project at Michigan State University:

Volume one

Volume two

 

Critical editions

Besterman, Theodore, ed. 1958. Les Lettres de la Marquise Du Châtelet. 2 Vols. Geneva: Institut et Musée Voltaire.

Forthcoming. Correspondance. Sous la Direction d’Ulla Kölving et André Magnan. Geneva: Ferney-Voltaire, Centre International d’Étude du XVIIIe Siècle.

 

Previous incomplete editions  

1782. Lettres de M. de Voltaire et de sa Célèbre Amie: Suivies d’un Petit Poème, d’une Lettre de J. J. Rousseau & d’un Parallèle entre Voltaire et J. J. Rousseau. Geneva, Paris: Cailleau.

Google Books link to original from Oxford University

 

Hochet, Claude, ed. 1806. Lettres Inédites de Madame la Marquise du Chastelet a M. le Comte d'Argental: Auxquelles on a Joint une Dissertation sur l'Existence de Dieu. Paris: Chez Xhrouet.

Note: Includes Dissertation sur l'existence de Dieu (Ch. 2 of Institutions de Physique) and Réflexions sur le Bonnheur.

Online digitizations & downloads:

Gallica link

Google Books link to original from Oxford University Library

 

Sériyes, Antoine and Jean Eckard, eds. 1818. Lettres Inédites de Mme la Marquise du Châtelet, et Supplément à la Correspondance de Voltaire avec le Roi de Prusse, et Avec Différentes Personnes Célèbres: On y a Joint Quelques lettres de cet Écrivain, qui n’ont Point été Recueillies dans les OEuvres Complètes, avec des Notes Historiques et Littéraires. Paris: Lefèvre.

Online digitization & download:

HathiTrust link

 

1838. Mémoires anecdotiques, très-curieux et inconnus jusqu'á ce jour, sur Voltaire, réflexions sur ses ouvrages, suivis de divers écrits inédits de la marquise du Chatelet, du président Hénault, de Piron, etc., par Longchamps et Wagnière, ses secrétaires. Vol. 2. Paris: Béthune et Plon.

Note: Contains in which Du Châtelet responds to a critique of Voltaire by Abbé Desfontaines.

HathiTrust link

 

Assé, Eugène, ed. 1878. Lettres de la Marquise du Châtelet: Réunies pour la Première Fois Revues sur les Autographes et les Éditions Originales Augmentées de 37 Lettres Entièrement Inédites, de Nombreuses Notes d’un Index et Précédées d’une Notice Biographique par Eugène Assé. Paris: G. Charpentier.

Internet Archive link

Scholars Portal link to PDF

 

Soprani, Anne, ed. 1997. Lettres d’Amour au Marquis de Saint-Lambert. Paris: Éditions Paris-Méditerrannée.

 

Secondary references

Bonnel, Roland. 2000. "La Correspondance scientifique de la marquise Du Châtelet: La 'Lettre-laboratoire'." In Femmes en toutes lettres: Les Epistolières du XVIIIe siècle, edited by Marie-France Silver and Marie-Laure Girou Swiderski, pp. 79-95. Oxford, England: Voltaire Foundation.

Goodman, Dena. 1994. The Republic of Letters: a cultural history of the French enlightenment. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Wetzel, Nadine. 2008. "Newton und Leibniz in Frankreich: Émilie du Châtelets Korrespondenz über nationale Grenzen der République des Lettres." In Kulturen des Wissens im 18. Jahrhundert, edited by Ulrich Johannes Schneider and Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer, pp. 151-162. Berlin, Germany: de Gruyter.

 

 

 

 

5.1 Correspondence with Johann II Bernoulli

Johann II Bernoulli (1710-1790) came from a famous Swiss family of mathematicians based in Basel. They became known for their expertise in Leibnizian calculus and for solving some of the most difficult mathematical problems of their time. His father Johann I Bernoulli (1667-1748) was an early developer of the calculus and his pupils included Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis, Alexis Claude Clairaut and Leonhard Euler. Johann II was also a successful academic in his own right: professor of rhetoric and mathematics in Basel, Rector of the Basel University, and member of the Berlin Academy and the Académie Royale des Sciences in Paris. It is through Maupertuis that Johann II came to know Du Châtelet, visiting her and Voltaire at her chateau in Cirey in 1739. Du Châtelet requested that he become her mathematics tutor on several occasions, but Johann II declined her generous offers at the behest of Maupertuis. Du Châtelet continued her correspondence with him until shortly before her death.

 

Extant letters & digitization

The Besterman correspondence contains 43 letters from Du Châtelet to Johann II in 1739-1749, based on manuscripts from the University of Basel library (UB Basel Ms L I a 648, 349–541). None of the letters Bernoulli sent to Du Châtelet seem to have survived: “Johann II Bernoulli did not draw up copies of his own letters. Therefore, the actual location of his letters is mostly unknown.” (Nagel, 2012, pg. 98)

The University of Basel library archive is currently in the process of publishing a new digital edition of the Bernoulli family correspondence (Fritz Nagel and Sulamith Gehr, editors.) Du Châtelet’s letters are forthcoming.

The Electronic Enlightenment proprietary database contains 41 of the letters (it is missing letters from 2 August 1740 and 12 December 1745).

Spreadsheet overview: Excel file

 

Du Châtelet’s Essai sur l’Optique

The Basel University Library archive also contains one of the two surviving copies of Du Châtelet’s Essai sur l’Optique, which until recently was considered lost. Excerpts of the fourth chapter of the Essai survive in the Voltaire archive at the National Library in St. Petersburg, Russia. Du Châtelet also mentions sending a manuscript of the Essai to Johann II in a letter to him from the 30th of March 1739.

This 80-page essay exists in just two copies worldwide: the Paris version, sold at a Christie’s auction in 2012, is a fair copy obviously intended for circulation by Du Châtelet, and the Basel version discovered by Dr. Fritz Nagel amongst the papers of Johann Bernoulli, which is in a rough hand. It has never before been published. The essay tackles classic topics in Cartesian and especially Newtonian optics, and helps to show the range of Du Châtelet's intellectual interests and achievements. A member of the Project Vox team, Duke University PhD student Bryce Gessell, has transcribed the Paris manuscript in preparation for collaboration with Dr. Nagel that will lead to the very first publication of this important work.

 

Related documents in Basel archive

According to Fritz Nagel, the University’s archive contains a large collection of other Bernoulli documents related to Du Châtelet (Nagel, 2012, pg. 98):

  • Eight letters Voltaire sent to Johann II Bernoulli dating from the time when Du Châtelet corresponded with Bernoulli (UB Basel Ms L I a 726, fo. 170–180).
  • Copies of three of Du Châtelet’s letters to Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis, (UB Basel Ms L I a 684, 555–562).
  • Excerpts of Cardinal de Tencin’s correspondence with his sister, relating to the relationship between Du Châtelet and Voltaire; this also has some excerpts from the Poésies choisies de Voltaire (Leipzig 1797), some of the verses of which were directly addressed to Du Châtelet. The excerpts were edited by Johann III Bernoulli, the son of Johann II, who added them—together with some other sources—to a set of documents which is now part of the volume with the shelf mark UB Basel Ms L I a 684 (pp. 543–548 and 549–552).
  • Maupertuis’ correspondence with Johann I and Johann II Bernoulli, which is documented by 98 and 174 letters respectively (UB Basel Ms L I a 662 and L I a 708).
  • Handwritten Mémoire by Voltaire on Du Châtelet’s Dissertation sur la nature et la propagation du feu.” (UB Basel Ms L I a 726, fol. 184r-187v).

 

Primary sources

Besterman, T. 1958. Les Lettres de la Marquise Du Châtelet. 2 Vols. Geneva: Institut et Musée Voltaire.

 

Secondary references

Nagel, Fritz. 2012. “ ‘Sancti Bernoulli Orate Pro Nobis.’ Émilie Du Châtelet's Rediscovered Essai sur l'optique and Her Relation to the Mathematicians from Basel." In Émilie Du Châtelet: Between Leibniz and Newton, edited by Ruth Hagengruber. Dordrecht: Springer.

 

Image of Bernoulli forthcoming.

For image sources and permissions see our image gallery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.2 Correspondence with Alexis Claude Clairaut

A French mathematical prodigy and physicist, Alexis Claude Clairaut (1713-1765) was elected to the Académie Royale des Sciences at the young age of eighteen. He was a disciple of Johann I Bernoulli and as a protégé of Maupertuis, he joined the successful expedition to Lapland to verify Newton's conception of the shape of the Earth, an important aspect of gravitational theory in that era. Clairaut became Du Châtelet's mathematics tutor in 1734 and a friend until her death. Judith Zinsser notes that “contemporaries assumed that Clairaut's textbooks Elémens de géométrie (1741) and Elémens d'algèbre  (1746) had been written for Du Châtelet, and that she used at least one of them when she took over her son's education” (2007). Clairaut also assisted Du Châtelet in her translation of, and commentary on, Newton's Principia, and was a frequent visitor to Cirey. After her death, he was instrumental in persuading Laurent François Prault, the publisher of the Institutions, also to publish Du Châtelet’s posthumous work on Newton. To date, this translation and commentary remains the only comprehensive edition of Newton’s Principia in French.

There are only four known extant letters from Clairaut to Du Châtelet, and one fragment. The four letters can be found transcribed in an 1892 volume of Atti della Accademia nazionale dei Lincei. A facsimile of one of these is reprinted in the Isographie des Hommes Célèbres (1843.) The fragment is contained in the Electronic Enlightenment database. Clairaut also discussed Du Châtelet with others in his correspondence, for example, with Gabriel Cramer (1723-1793), the Swiss printer and bookseller, who was also a correspondent of Mairan and engaged in the vis viva debate.

Spreadsheet overview: Excel file​

 

Date

Availability

4 January 1741

Atti della Accademia nazionale dei Lincei

5 September 1741

Atti della Accademia nazionale dei Lincei

undated

Atti della Accademia nazionale dei Lincei

undated

Atti della Accademia nazionale dei Lincei & Isographie des Hommes Célèbres

5 May 1741  (Julian)

16 May 1741  (Gregorian)

Electronic Englightenment

 

Primary sources

Boncompagni, D.B. 1892. Intorno alle lettere edite ed inedite di Alessio Claudio Clairaut. - Memoria del Principe D.B. Boncompagni (Pubblicazione postuma.)  In Atti della Accademia nazionale dei Lincei. Roma: Accademia nazionale dei Lincei. Vol. 45 (1891-92), 26 June 1892, pp. 157-291.

Note: The transcripts of letters from Clairaut to Du Châtelet can be found on pp. 233-238.

HathiTrust link

PDF file​

 

Delareu, Théophile. 1843. Isographie des Hommes Célèbres ou Collection de Fac-Simile de Lettres at de Augraphes Signatures. Paris: Delarue, Truttel & Wurtz.

Bayerische StaatsBibliothek link

PDF file

 

McNamee, Robert, ed. 2015. Electronic Enlightenment Correspondence Version 3.0. University of Oxford. Link.

Speziali, P. 1955. “Une correspondance inédite entre Clairaut et Cramer.” Revue d’histoire des sciences et de leurs applications. Vol. 8, No 3: pp. 193–237.

 

Secondary references

Passeron, Irène. 2001. "Muse ou élève? Sur les lettres de Clairaut à Mme Du Châtelet." In Cirey dans la vie intellectuelle/La Réception de Newton en France, edited by François De Gandt, pp. 187-197. Oxford, England: Voltaire Foundation.

Shank, J.B. 2008. The Newton Wars and the beginning of the French Enlightenment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Zinsser, Judith. 2007. “Mentors, the marquise Du Châtelet and historical memory.” Notes and records of the Royal Society. Vol. 61, No. 2: pp. 89-108. 

Zinsser, Judith and O. Courcelle. 2003. “A remarkable collaboration: the Marquise Du Châtelet and Alexis Clairaut.” SVEC. Vol. 12: pp. 107-20.

 

Image of Clairaut forthcoming.

For image sources and permissions see our image gallery.

 

 

 

 

 

5.3 Correspondence with Leonhard Euler

One of the most famous mathematicians of the 18th century, Leonhard Euler (1707-1783) made several important discoveries in infinitesimal calculus, as well as other branches of mathematics, physics and astronomy. Swiss by origin, and a pupil of Johann I Bernoulli, Euler spent most of his life at the Imperial Russian Academy of Sciences and Frederick the Great's Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin.

Euler knew Du Châtelet’s work well – they both entered the 1738 Paris competition on the nature of fire, which Euler won, and their essays were published together in 1739: hers as Dissertation sur la nature et la propagation du feu and his as Dissertation sur le feu, sur sa nature et ses propriétés. We know that Euler read Du Châtelet’s essay, as well as both editions of her Institutions.

Euler and Du Châtelet corresponded with one another and he also discussed her work in his letters to others. In a letter written on 30th of May 1744, Euler provided a long commentary on the Institutions. According to Andrea Reichenberger, “He praised her hypotheses chapter which would show that scientific hypotheses are necessary and fruitful for further research. It would be misleading to ban hypotheses from science as propagated by the «Philosophes Anglois». Further, Euler agreed with Du Châtelet in her critique of Mairan’s ill-founded defence of mv. Euler added he regrets the aggressive tone with which the vis viva controversy would be held up” (pg. 168).

To date, only two letters from Euler to Du Châtelet are extant; they are in the archives of the National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg. The letters were transcribed in Пиcьмa к учeным (1963), along with a Russian translation and notes by T.N. Klado. According to Reichenberger, “this collection includes letters that Euler stored in the archives of the Academy of Sciences and in the Manuscript Department of the University of Tartu Library, various scientists and other persons associated with the activities of the Petersburg and Berlin academies.”

 

References

Euler, Leonhard. Пиcьмa к учeным (Letters to scientists). 1963. Edited by V.I. Smirnov, T.N. Klado, J. X. Kopelevich, T.A. Lukina. USSR Academy of Sciences: Moscow, Leningrad.

Reichenberger, Andrea. 2012. “Leibniz’s Quantity of Force: A ‘Heresy’? Émilie du Châtelet’s
 Institutions in the context of the Vis Viva controversy.” In Émilie Du Châtelet: Between Leibniz and Newton, edited by Ruth Hagengruber. Dordrecht: Springer.

Suisky, Dieter. 2012.  “Leonhard Euler and Émilie Du Châtelet on the post-Newtonian development of mechanics.” In Émilie Du Châtelet: Between Leibniz and Newton, edited by Ruth Hagengruber. Dordrecht: Springer.

 

Image of Euler forthcoming.

For image sources and permissions see our image gallery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.4 Correspondence with Frederick the Great

Known as Frederick the Great, Frederick II (1712-1786) reigned as the “enlightened absolutist” King of Prussia from 1740 until his death in 1786. His tragic relationship with his father and his numerous passionate relationships with various important figures in Europe inspired a famous account of his life by Nancy Mitford (1970; reprinted, 2013). Although he became known as one of the greatest military commanders of the 18th century, he was also a passionate patron of the arts and sciences, who promoted rational secularism and religious toleration. He re-founded the Academy of Sciences in Berlin, recruiting leading figures of the Enlightenment such as Algarotti, d’Alembert, Euler, König, La Mettrie, Maupertuis, and Voltaire, among others. An admirer and a friend of Voltaire, Frederick corresponded with both Voltaire and Du Châtelet regularly. Du Châtelet sent him a copy of her Institutions.

 

Extant letters & digitization

There are 30 extant letters from the correspondence between Du Châtelet and Frederick: 20 letters from Du Châtelet and 10 from Frederick. Frederick also dedicated a poem entitled À la divine Émilie to Du Châtelet and sent it to Voltaire on 10 November 1737.

All of Du Châtelet’s letters can be found in the Besterman edition of her correspondence and the Electronic Enlightenment proprietary database. The database also contains one more additional fragment of a letter from Frederick.

Frederick’s side of the correspondence (as well as Du Châtelet’s) can be found in the University of Trier Library digital edition of the Œuvres de Frédéric le Grand – Werke Fredrichs des Grossen, Volume 17, along with Frederick’s epistolary exchange with Maupertuis. Volume 14 contains A la divine Émilie.

Spreadsheet overview: Excel file

 

Content of correspondence

The epistolary exchange between Du Châtelet and Frederick had important philosophical consequences for her work: it is through Frederick that Du Châtelet became acquainted with the work of the German philosopher Christian Wolff (1679-1754), a proponent of a Leibnizian approach to philosophy. Frederick had Wolff’s metaphysical work Ontologia specially translated into French for her and sent to Cirey in May of 1739. Du Châtelet then sent Frederick an advance copy of her Institutions.

Wolff and Du Châtelet also engaged in correspondence, with Wolff praising her Institutions. Leibniz’s metaphysical ideas, mediated by Wolff, formed a foundation of Du Châtelet's epistemology, and are discussed in the opening chapters of her Institutions. Letters 235, 237 and 244 reflect Wolff’s influence. Some scholars argue that it is largely through Wolff’s efforts that Du Châtelet’s works were translated into German in 1743.

                       

Primary sources

Besterman, T. 1958. Les Lettres de la Marquise Du Châtelet. 2 Vols. Geneva: Institut et Musée Voltaire.

Preuss, Johann D.E., ed. 1846-1856. Œuvres de Frédéric le Grand. Vol. 1-30. Berlin: Decker.

Œuvres de Frédéric le Grand – Werke Fredrichs des Grossen. University of Trier digital edition

 

Secondary references

Böttcher, F. 2008. “La réception des Institutions de physique en Allemagne.” In Émilie Du Châtelet: Éclairages & documents nouveaux, ed. Ulla Kölving and Olivier Courcelle, pp. 243–54. Ferney-Voltaire: Centre International d’Étude du XVIIIe Siècle.

Mitford, Nancy. 2013, 2nd ed. Frederick the Great. New York: New York Review Books.

Wetzel, Nadine. 2008. "Newton und Leibniz in Frankreich: Émilie du Châtelets Korrespondenz über nationale Grenzen der République des Lettres." In Kulturen des Wissens im 18. Jahrhundert, edited by Ulrich Johannes Schneider and Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer, pp. 151-162. Berlin, Germany: de Gruyter.

Winter, Ursula. 2012. “From translation to philosophical discourse –
Émilie du Châtelet’s commentaries on Newton and Leibniz.” In Émilie Du Châtelet: Between Leibniz and Newton, edited by Ruth Hagengruber, pp. 173-206. Dordrecht: Springer.

 

Image of Frederick the Great forthcoming.

For image sources and permissions see our image gallery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.5 Correspondence with Julien Offray de La Mettrie

Julien Offray de la Mettrie (1709-1751), a French physician and natural philosopher, was one of the earliest proponents of materialism in France and indeed Europe. La Mettrie's materialism was considered scandalous: following the publication of his works, he was forced to flee from France to Holland and from there to Germany. Thanks to his good friend Maupertuis, who grew up in the same town as la Mettrie, he found refuge in Frederick the Great's Royal Academy of Sciences.

La Mettrie knew Du Châtelet's work through Maupertuis, and scholars think there is good evidence that their philosophies influenced each other. He dedicated his École de la volupté (1746) to her and also addressed a detailed, witty and ironic "Lettre critique" to her in his L'Histoire Naturelle de l'Âme (1747). We know that La Mettrie had the 1742 edition of Du Châtelet’s Institutions in his library. Some scholars think that he regarded Du Châtelet as the primary interpreter and promoter of Leibnizian philosophical views in France, though he did not agree with her conclusions. Some scholars also argue that there are parallels between Du Châtelet’s posthumously published work Discours sur le bonheur, La Mettrie’s Discours sur le bonheur (1748) and Maupertuis’s Essai de philosophie morale (1749).

To our knowledge, there is no extant correspondence between Du Châtelet and La Mettrie, but research by the Société Voltaire is forthcoming. There is no proof so far that they had met each other in person, but the likelihood is high, as they both belonged to the same scholarly circles in Paris and shared friends, such as Maupertuis and Voltaire.

 

“Lettre critique” – an interpretation by Joseph Fletcher

The second edition of Julien Offray de La Mettrie’s Histoire naturelle de l’âme (1747) includes, as does the 1745 first edition, the title page claiming the work was translated from the English of “M. Charp.” Like the first edition, the second edition work was published anonymously, and it was dedicated to Maupertuis. However, the second edition differs from the first in its inclusion of a “Lettre critique” explicitly addressed from La Mettrie to Du Châtelet (“Lettre Critique de M. de La Mettrie sur l’Histoire Naturelle de l‘Âme à Mme. La Marquise du Châtelet”), which can be found on the last 12 pages of the work.

La Mettrie’s letter enumerates the materialist errors in a work that ignorantly and dangerously reduces all human faculties, including those attributed to the rational soul, to a motive principle inherent to matter. Thus, La Mettrie attaches his name to a letter purporting to express shock at the ideas presented in the provocatively materialist Histoire that he had pseudonymously written.

La Mettrie’s professed admiration for Du Châtelet’s own work in the “Lettre critique” should be seen as ironic, since he fundamentally disagrees with her on the properties of matter and the soul. His rhetorical framing in the letter allows him to distance himself from the scandalous materialism of his own work while feigning the role of a critic with metaphysical objections to the ideas presented therein – objections he believes Du Châtelet herself would have. In so doing, La Mettrie differentiates between empirical claims, as made by anatomists and medical practitioners like himself, and a priori propositions believed by his philosophical opponents, Du Châtelet among them, to be the necessary foundation of such empirical claims. While Du Châtelet was attempting to forge a middle ground between Leibniz and Newton in the Institutions, La Mettrie, in the letter, ironically criticizes this endeavor and marks the empirical, anti-metaphysical direction in which he wishes to take philosophy.

 

Primary sources & digitization

La Mettrie, Julien Offray de. 1747. Histoire Naturelle de l’Ame. Oxford: Aux dépens de l’auteur. 

Note:  Includes “Lettre critique.”

Internet Archive link to original from Duke University, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.  

PDF file 

La Mettrie, J. O. de. 1975. Discours sur le bonheur. Critical edition by John Falvey. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation.

La Mettrie, J. O. de. 1970. Oeuvres philosophiques 1774. Hildesheim, New York: Olms.

 

Secondary references

Hagengruber, Ruth. 2012.  “Émilie du Châtelet between Leibniz and Newton: the transformation of metaphysics.” In Émilie Du Châtelet: Between Leibniz and Newton, edited by Ruth Hagengruber, pp. 1-60. Dordrecht: Springer.

Fletcher, Joseph. “The Dangerous Metaphysician: La Mettrie’s Critical Letter to Du Châtelet.” Unpublished manuscript.

 

Image of La Mettrie forthcoming.

For image sources and permissions see our image gallery.

 

 

 

 

 

5.6 Correspondence with Pierre Louis Moreau du Maupertuis

Pierre Louis Moreau du Maupertuis (1698–1759) was an eminent French mathematician and natural philosopher: a member of both the Académie Royale des Sciences and Académie Française in Paris, and member of the Royal Society in London. In 1736 he led an expedition to Lapland to verify Newton's conception of the shape of the Earth by measuring the length of a degree of longitude. The expedition was successful and as a result, Maupertuis was invited by Frederick the Great, the “enlightened monarch” of Prussia, to become the first President of his Royal Academy of Sciences in Berlin.

He became Du Châtelet's mathematics tutor and friend in the 1730s, but they became estranged in the 1740s. He was a proponent of Isaac Newton's work against Cartesian physics, and was instrumental in introducing Newton's theories in France. For instance, he defended Newtonian ideas in his famous Discours sur les différentes figures des astres (Paris, 1732) against various philosophical objections, including those of the Cartesians.

A pupil of the renowned Swiss mathematician Johann I Bernoulli, Maupertuis began tutoring Du Châtelet in mathematics in 1733, a role that his protégé Alexis Claude Clairaut took on a year later. Through Maupertuis, Du Châtelet also became acquainted with the mathematicians Leonhard Euler, Johann II Bernoulli, and Samuel König. Du Châtelet requested Johann II as her tutor, but upon Maupertuis’s persuasion, he turned down her generous offers, and Samuel König became her tutor at his recommendation instead. König and Du Châtelet disagreed, and König later attempted to undermine Du Châtelet’s intellectual credibility by claiming her work Institutions as his own. This episode eventually led to an estrangement between Maupertuis and Du Châtelet in 1741; ironically, König would later accuse Maupertuis of plagiarism as well. Although she had sent Maupertuis her Institutions more than once, he denied ever receiving the work and remained silent regarding König’s claims. Du Châtelet continued to write to him, but the correspondence became less personal and it appears that a few years later it ceased altogether.

 

Extant letters & digitization

The 1958 Besterman edition of Du Châtelet’s correspondence contains 76 letters that Du Châtelet had sent to Maupertuis between 1734-1744.  The letters can also be found in the Electronic Enlightenment proprietary database. There are no extant letters from Maupertuis in response to Du Châtelet. Some of Maupertuis’s correspondence to others, such as Frederick the Great and Johann II Bernoulli, survives. 

Spreadsheet overview: Excel file

 

Content of correspondence

The content of Du Châtelet’s letters is significant in its philosophical content. She addresses various important topics, including the Newtonian law of attraction, elasticity and the solidity of bodies, Leibnizian metaphysics, the vis viva controversy, issues regarding free will and thinking matter, etc. Some scholars also argue that Du Châtelet’s letters influenced Maupertuis’s subsequent views on the principle of least action.

 

English translations

Six of the letters in the Besterman edition of Du Châtelet’s correspondence have been translated into English. Isabelle Bour and Judith Zinsser translated three letters (nos. 73, 122, 151) that appear in Émilie Du Châtelet: Selected Philosophical and Scientific Writings (2009). Project Vox translation of another three letters (nos. 124, 126, 129) is forthcoming.

 

Primary sources

Besterman, T. 1958. Les Lettres de la Marquise Du Châtelet. 2 Vols. Geneva: Institut et Musée Voltaire.

Zinsser, Judith, ed. 2009. Émilie Du Châtelet: Selected Philosophical and Scientific Writings. Isabelle Bour and Judith Zinsser, translators.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

 

Secondary references

Hagengruber, Ruth. 2012. “Émilie du Châtelet between Leibniz and Newton: the transformation of metaphysics.” In Émilie Du Châtelet: Between Leibniz and Newton, edited by Ruth Hagengruber, pp. 1-60. Dordrecht: Springer.

Terrall, Mary. 2002. The man who flattened the earth: Maupertuis and the sciences in the Enlightenment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Zinsser, Judith. 2007. “Mentors, the Marquise Du Châtelet and historical memory.” Notes and records of the Royal Society. Vol. 61, No. 2: pp. 89-108. 

 

Image of Maupertuis forthcoming.

For image sources and permissions see our image gallery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Connections

Thanks to her aristocratic status and her shrewd use of intellectual and patronage networks, Du Châtelet built relations with a wide array of courtiers, natural philosophers, scholars and writers in the “Republic of Letters.” She maintained regular contacts with numerous influential individuals throughout Europe.

The table below describes a selection of her connections, mainly natural philosophers and scholars. Many of these were members of the “Bernoulli Circle” of mathematicians and physics scholars, as well as members of Frederick the Great’s Prussian Royal Academy of Sciences in Berlin (e.g. Algarotti, Euler, König, La Mettrie, Maupertuis, Voltaire).

Scholar

Connection

Algarotti, Francesco

(1712–1764)

 

A Venetian poet and scholar, and fellow of the Royal Society, Algarotti was well connected in scholarly and literary circles in both England and the Continent. He became known for his popularizations of Newton's work, especially Newtonianismo per le dame (1737), which circulated widely. He composed most of this work during his stay with Du Châtelet at Cirey, but it presents her in a denigrating light, as his pupil rather than his mentor.

Bernoulli, Johann I

(1667-1748)

Bernoulli, Johann II

(1710-1790)

The Bernoulli family was famous for producing several gifted mathematicians. Johann I, his brother Jacob, and their sons became known for their expertise in Leibnizian calculus and for solving some of the most difficult mathematical problems of their time. Johann I's pupils included Maupertuis, Clairaut and Euler. Johann I was familiar with Du Châtelet's progress in physics via Maupertuis, and his third son, Johann II Bernoulli, was a close friend of Maupertuis and visited Du Châtelet at Cirey. Several letters from Du Châtelet to Johann II are extant, as well as one of the two extant complete copies of her Essai sur l’Optique (which she sent to Johann II).

Clairaut, Alexis-Claude

(1713-1765)

 

 

A French mathematical prodigy and physicist, Clairaut was elected to the Académie des Sciences at the young age of eighteen. He was a disciple of Johann I Bernoulli and as a protégé of Maupertuis he joined the successful expedition to Lapland to verify Newton's conception of the shape of the Earth. Clairaut became Du Châtelet's mathematics tutor and a friend who took her endeavours seriously. He assisted Du Châtelet in her translation of, and commentary on, Newton's Principia, and was a frequent visitor to Cirey. After her death, he was instrumental in publishing this work posthumously.

Euler, Leonhard

(1707-1783)

 

One of the most famous mathematicians of the 18th century, Euler made several important discoveries in infinitesimal calculus, as well as other branches of mathematics, physics and astronomy. Swiss by origin, and a pupil of Johann I Bernoulli, Euler spent most of his life at the Imperial Russian Academy of Sciences and Frederick the Great's Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin. Euler knew Du Châtelet’s work well – they both entered the 1738 Paris competition on the nature of fire, and their essays were published together in 1739; he won the prize. He also read her Institutions. Euler and Du Châtelet corresponded, and he also discussed her work in letters to others.

Fontenelle, Bernard le Bovier de

(1657-1757)

 

A French writer and natural philosopher, Fontenelle was a member of the Académie Française and the perpetual Secretary of the Académie des Sciences for more than forty years (beginning in 1697). Fontenelle knew Du Châtelet from her childhood and was Maupertuis’s mentor. In 1686, he published his very popular and often republished work Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes, a series of conversations between a natural philosopher and a Marquise, in which he presents the Marquise character as “flirtatious” and not serious. Unfortunately, this stereotype probably contributed to the devaluation of Du Châtelet’s work by future generations.

Frederic II, King of Prussia

(1712-1786)

 

Known as Frederick the Great, Frederick reigned from 1740 until his death in 1786 as an “enlightened absolutist” ruler. Although he became known as one of the greatest military commanders of the 18th century, he was also a passionate patron of the arts and sciences, who promoted rational secularism and religious toleration. He refounded the Royal Academy of Sciences in Berlin, and deliberately recruited leading figures of the French Enlightenment such as Algarotti, d’Alembert, Euler, König, La Mettrie, Maupertuis, and Voltaire, among others. An admirer and a friend of Voltaire, Frederick corresponded with both Voltaire and Du Châtelet regularly. Du Châtelet sent him a copy of her Institutions.

Jacquier, François Père

(1711-1788)

 

A French mathematician and professor of natural philosophy, Jurin was well connected with scholars across Europe and was a member of the Royal Society, Académie des Sciences, and the Berlin Academy of Sciences.  Jurin was the co-editor of the Geneva edition of Newton’s Principia (1739-1742), and he visited Du Châtelet at Cirey. It seems that he admired Du Châtelet’s Institutions—he probably arranged for the translation and publication of the Italian edition in Venice in 1743.

Jurin, James

(1684-1750)

 

An British physician, mathematician, natural philosopher, and Secretary of the Royal Society. An ardent Newtonian, Jurin became famous for his promotion of smallpox inoculation in England, and the initiation of the "natural history of air" project. Du Châtelet knew Jurin through Maupertuis and corresponded with him. In 1738, Algarotti brought him a copy of Du Châtelet's Dissertation on fire on his trip to London. Du Châtelet also sent him her response to Mairan and her Institutions

König, Samuel

(1712-1757)

 

A Swiss mathematician, König studied with Johann I Bernoulli at the same time as Maupertuis, and was also a student of the Leibnizian philosopher Christian Wolff at Frederick the Great’s Academy of Sciences. On recommendation by Maupertuis, he became Du Châtelet's tutor in mathematics and Leibnizian metaphysics. The relationship fell apart when König decided to publicly undermine Du Châtelet's intellectual reputation by contesting the authorship of her Institutions. König also later fell out with Euler, and also later accused Maupertuis of plagiarism.

La Mettrie, Julien Offray de

(1709-1751)

 

French physician and natural philosopher, and one of the earliest proponents of materialism in France. La Mettrie's materialism was considered scandalous, and following the publication of his works, he was forced to flee from France to Holland. Thanks to his good friend Maupertuis, he found refuge in Frederick the Great's Academy of Sciences. La Mettrie knew Du Châtelet through Maupertuis, and there is good evidence that their philosophies influenced each other. He dedicated one of his works to her and also addressed an ironic and witty "Lettre critique" to her in his L'Histoire Naturelle de l'Âme of 1747. It appears that he regarded Du Châtelet as the primary interpreter and promoter of Leibnizian philosophical views in France.

Mairan, Jean Jacques Dortous de

(1678–1771)

 

A French natural philosopher who studied physics with Nicolas Malebranche, Mairan succeeded Fontenelle as the Secretary of the Académie Royale des Sciences, and was a member of several scientific societies in Europe. He was also editor of the influential Journal des sçavans, which published a review of Du Châtelet’s Institutions. Du Châtelet criticized Mairan’s Cartesian position on the vis viva controversy in the last chapter of her Institutions and defended a Leibnizian position against him. Mairan wrote a reply to her criticisms in 1741, to which she wrote a rejoinder.

Maupertuis, Pierre Louis Moreau du

(1698–1759)

 

Maupertuis was an eminent French mathematician and natural philosopher who became Du Châtelet's mathematics tutor and friend. He was a proponent of Isaac Newton's work against Cartesian physics, and was made a member of the Royal Society of London. He was responsible for helping to introduce Newton's theory of gravity into France. His Discours sur les différentes figures des astres (1732) compared the Cartesian and Newtonian system of natural philosophy in depth, defending the Newtonian theory from the charge that its portrayal of attraction is a metaphysical “monster.” He was also a member of the Académie Royale des Sciences and the Académie Française. After his successful visit to Lapland to verify Newton’s view of the shape of the Earth, he was invited by Frederick the Great to become the first President of his Academy of Sciences in Berlin.

Voltaire

(1694–1778)

 

Neé François-Marie Arouet, Voltaire was a prolific French writer, poet and satirist, who was notorious in his own time and is today regarded as a leading figure in the French Enlightenment. Not a traditional philosopher, he nevertheless engaged with many leading scholars and natural philosophers across Europe, including Frederick the Great and members of his Academy of Sciences. As Du Châtelet’s personal and intellectual companion, Voltaire introduced Du Châtelet to his scholarly contacts; she in turn helped him write a number of his works, including his Élements de la philosphie de Newton, which was instrumental in popularizing Newtonian physics in France.

Wolff, Christian

(1679–1754)

 

A German mathematician and natural philosopher, Wolff was one of the most prominent German philosophers in his time and belonged to several scientific academies in Europe, including the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences and the Académie des Sciences in Paris. He is known as a proponent of Leibniz’s philosophy, and is today regarded as the link between the philosophical systems of Leibniz and Kant. Wolff became familiar with Du Châtelet’s work through Frederick the Great, and praised her Institutions in letters to others. They corresponded and Du Châtelet also sought his help with legal matters while sorting out her husband's inheritance in Brussels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Online resources

 

Academic projects

ARTFL Encyclopédie Project

Electronic edition of Diderot and d'Alembert's Encyclopédie.

 

Bernoulli correspondence – University of Basel electronic edition

The electronic edition digitizes the correspondence of the Bernoulli family of mathematicians of the 17th and 18th centuries. Edited by Fritz Nagel and Sulamith Gehr. The digitizations of Du Châtelet’s letters to Johann II Bernoulli are forthcoming.

 

Centre international d'étude du XVIIIe siècle

The Center is currently collaborating with scholars on a new edition of Du Châtelet’s complete correspondence.

 

Encyclopedia of d’Alembert and Diderot Collaborative Translation Project

The website allows browsing of articles that have been translated and searching of the database of translations in a variety of ways. There are also links to the original French versions of translated articles.

 

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Bibliothek

Leibniz archives and digitization of select works at the Niedersächsische Landesbibliothek, Germany.

 

Huygens ING - Connections between women and writings within European borders (COBWWWEB)

The WomenWriters database currently contains references concerning 4,000 authors, their works, and more than 22,000 documents concerning their reception. 

 

Karlsruhe Virtual Catalog

A search engine that allows for the simultaneous searching of worldwide digitization initiatives, as well as individual country library catalogues and their digital collections. Project Vox used this resource to identify most of the digital resources for Du Châtelet.

 

The Voltaire Foundation – Blog

The Voltaire Foundation – Œuvres complètes de Voltaire

The Foundation publishes the definitive edition of the Complete Works of Voltaire (Œuvres complètes de Voltaire), as well as Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment (previously SVEC), the foremost series devoted to Enlightenment studies, and the correspondences of several key French thinkers.

 

Women in Science

Brief biography of Du Châtelet by Judith Zinsser, and links to digitizations of select primary sources and manuscripts.

 

 

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy articles

 

Émilie du Châtelet

Article by Karen Detlefsen, University of Pennsylvania.

 

G.W. Leibniz

Article by Brandon C. Look, University of Kentucky. The Encyclopedia contains several articles related to Leibniz’s natural philosophy.

 

Isaac Newton

Article by George Smith, Tufts University.

 

Newton’s Philosophy

Article by Andrew Janiak, Duke University.

 

Newton's Views on Space, Time, and Motion

Article by Robert Rynasiewicz, Johns Hopkins University.

 

Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica

Article by George Smith, Tufts University.

 

Voltaire

Article by J.B. Shank, University of Minnesota.

 

Christian Wolff

Article by Matt Hettche, North Carolina State University.

 

Other resources  

Château de Cirey

Château Lunéville

Museé Voltaire in Geneva