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December 17, 1706

“Self-love is always the mainspring, more or less conceded of our actions; it is the wind which swells the sails without which the ship could not go”

Émilie du Châtelet

Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise du Châtelet a French natural philosopher and mathematician was born.

Her most recognized achievement is her translation of and commentary on Isaac Newton’s 1687 book Principia containing basic laws of physics. The translation, published posthumously in 1756, is still considered the standard French translation. Her commentary includes a contribution to Newtonian mechanics—the postulate of an additional conservation law for total energy, of which kinetic energy of motion is one element. This led to her conceptualization of energy as such, and to derive its quantitative relationships to the mass and velocity of an object.

Her philosophical magnum opus, Institutions de Physique (Paris, 1740, first edition; 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. Posthumously, her ideas were heavily represented in the most famous text of the French Enlightenment, the Encyclopédie of Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert, first published shortly after du Châtelet’s death. (Wikipedia)

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“Love of learning is the most necessary passion … in it lies our happiness. It’s a sure remedy for what ails us, an unending source of pleasure.”

Émilie du Châtelet

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