Google is celebrating the 315th birthday of Émilie du Châtelet, who was a physicist, translator, philosopher despite the exclusion of women from physics at the time.
Du Châtelet’s most influential book was her anonymously published 1740 text, “The Foundations of Physics,” which built on Isaac Newton’s work. She also completed a translation of his “Principia,” in which Newton outlines the laws of gravity and motion, shortly before her death in 1749; in her version, she not only translated Newton’s text into French but also expanded on the math he provided.
Du Châtelet has been credited for popularizing Newton’s ideas in France and beyond; in particular, her work took Newton’s work on gravity and focused on what might cause gravity to work on the scale of planets and how such a force might have originated, according to one analysis of her legacy. Google celebrated du Châtelet’s work with a Google doodle depicting the scientist at work with mathematical instruments.
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Du Châtelet was born in 1706; her father, an official in the court of the French “Sun King” Louis XIV supported her education in fields ranging from Latin literature to the math and philosophy that would underpin her later work.
This education is representative of her career: Because of the sexism built into scientific institutions at the time, du Châtelet’s ability to do science relied on both her high social status and the endorsement of the men in her…