Emilie du Châtelet
Châtelet's Early Years
•Where and when was your mathematician born?
-She was Born on December 17th 1706 in Paris France.
•What was his or her full name? Did your mathematician ever change his or her name and why?
-Full name: Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, marquise du Châtelet. Changed to Marquise du Chastellet because of marriage.
•Discover information about your mathematician as a child and about his or her family.
- Emilie was born to baron Louis Nicholas le Tonnelier de Breteuil and Gabrielle Anne de Froullay, Baronne de Breteuil. At a young age she was inquisitive about the world around her. She was the only girl among six children. Her siblings included René-Alexandre, Charles-Auguste, and Elisabeth-Théodore(he went on to be a successful bishop), and two younger brothers who died at a young age. She also had a half- sister who was born of her father and a woman named Anne Bellinzani, an intelligent woman who was interested in astronomy and married to an important Parisian official.
•What was his or her early education prior to college?
-Before she had matured du Châtelet’s father arranged for her to be trained in fencing, and riding. While starting to mature her father brought tutors to the house but her mother did not approve of such education. She believed that Emilie needed to be sent to a convent similar to the one that she grew up in. Émilie also liked to dance, was a passable performer on the harpsichord, sang opera, and was an amateur actress. As a teenager, short of money for books, she used her mathematical skills to devise highly successful strategies for gambling.
•Did your mathematician's childhood affect his or her career in mathematics?
- Yes her childhood did affect her career in mathematics because of many things. The first reason is due to the fact that her time period she lived in did not require girls to have education the way boys were to receive it. But it is due to a family friend, M. de Mezieres noticing her potential in mathematics that her father started to allow her to explore this as a potential career.
Châtelet's College and Mathematical Training
•Where did your mathematician get his or her education as a young adult and in adulthood?
- Throughout du Châtelet’s young adulthood into actual adulthood she received special treatment from tutors. When she was but a young adult she had already mastered latin, Italian, and English studying under tutors such as Tasso, virgil and Milton. After her marriage to Marquis du Châtelet she started to study under Voltaire, and Pierre Louis de Maupertuis. Both of which had a significant impact on her math career.
•How did this education affect his or her math career?
- Her education through tutors such as Voltaire and Pierre had an effect on her math career in many ways. The first is that her education with Voltaire was intense but allowed her to be productive and started to allow her to want to write books on famous mathematicians.
•What contributions did your mathematician make to the study of mathematics?
-Du Châtelet offered many contributions to the study of mathematics. She also studied newton’s theory of energy and velocity. While studying this she found a mistake that newton had made and corrected it. Newton had posed that he energy of a moving object was proportional to the mass and velocity of the object (Eαmv). Du Châtelet demonstrated that energy was actually proportional to the square of the velocity (Eαmv2). Along with this Du Châtelet also worked on a translation and analysis of newton’s Principia.
•Was he or she famous for anything outside the world of mathematics?
- Émilie wrote many books about mathematics and physics that she later became famous for. One of her most well recognized books, “Institutions de physique”, was written in 1740 and was revealed as a rehash of the lesson she had received from one of her tutors. It is said that Émilie felt that she did not receive the support that she deserved from the math and science community. It is also said that this is one of the first time sin which she felt as though being a woman worked against her.
•How did your mathematician's accomplishments affect other mathematicians? - Although Du Châtelet accomplishments were not as crucial as other mathematicians they did affect other mathematician’s works. It is said that Albert Einstein got the inspiration for his famous equation of relativity (E=mc2) when he looked at Émilie Du Châtelet’s study on the relationship between energy and velocity. She also started to change the view of what women were capable of doing in the 17th century.
•Did your mathematician have any famous inventions or math formulas?
- She not create any famous inventions but she did write books that provided information about mathematical theory and physics.
•How does his or her work in mathematics affect us today?
- Today Du Châtelets translation and commentary of newton’s Principia is still used as a prominent reference. The translation allows French scholars to look up and understand newton’s work. It was reprinted in 1966 and is the only French translation of newton’s principia.
Châtelet's Later Years
•Where did your mathematician spend his or her later years (beyond childhood)?
-Du Châtelet spent most of her later years beyond childhood in France. She often would travel from Paris to Cirey, France with Voltaire to her husband’s country home to complete writings and studies.
•What personal information can you find about him or her beyond what was done in the field of mathematics?
-Émilie ended up having three healthy children with her huband, Françoise Gabriel Pauline , Louis Marie Florent, and Victor-Esprit. She then had an affair with a poet Marquis de Saint-Lambert and became pregnant with his child. She convinced her husband that it was his she was carrying. Emilie died at the age of forty-three shortly after giving birth.
•Did where your mathematician live or the time period that he or she lived in have any effect on his or her personal or professional life?
-Yes, the Victorian era and the age of enlightenment did affect her personal and professional life. In the 17th century young girls were expected to marry young, have children and tend to those children. It was beyond rare that Châtelet not only got married at 19 but then had children and continued her career. Although many nobles could have given her grief for this choice of tending to a career many of them did not for proof that she was a gifted child and person.