Émilie Du Châtelet
  • introduction

    Women played a pivotal role in spreading the ideas of the European Enlightenment. However, one woman did not only illuminate the Enlightenment through her writings, but also set the course for the future. She was the French mathematician, physicist and philosopher Émilie Du Châtelet (1706-1749).

    From its beginnings, one focus of the Center for the History of Women Philosophers and Scientists has been on the scientific revaluation of the prominent role played by Mme Du Châtelet in 18th century history of philosophy and science. Recent research on Mme Du Châtelet at the HWPS covers two areas:

    1. Critical Editions

    In cooperation with the National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg (NLR), the entire inventory of Du Châtelet-manuscripts preserved in the Voltaire-Library at the NLR is being digitized. A critical online edition of the St. Petersburg manuscripts is currently being prepared at the HWPS.

    A transcription and online edition of the German translation of the Institutions Physiques: Der Frau Marquisinn von Chastellet Naturlehre an Ihren Sohn (1743), is also being prepared.

    2. Research Projects

    Grammaire Raisonnée
    The St. Petersburg manuscript corpus comprises three chapters from a rational grammar that was most obviously intended to be part of a more comprehensive treatise on logics and epistemology. Besides the online edition of the text, we are preparing a printed edition that will include an extensive scholarly commentary.

    Institutions Physiques: The German Reception
    The enormous influence of Émilie Du Châtelet’s thoughts and works on the German period of Enlightenment has, up until now, not been researched in depth. The research project focuses on the German reception of Émilie Du Châtelet from Christian Wolff and the Gottscheds to Immanuel Kant.


  • Philosopher's Profile

    Émilie Du Châtelet was an outstanding woman philosopher of the early 18th century not only through her uncompromising intellect, but also through the extensive range of subject-matters covered by her works, most of which, however, remained unpublished during her lifetime.

    Both exceptionally skilled and exceptionally trained in humanist and natural sciences as a young girl, she became the lover and life-long intellectual companion of Voltaire in 1734. At her husband’s estate in Cirey both established a scientific laboratory and a vast library that would attract scholars from many European countries even after Mme Du Châtelet’s premature death in 1749.

    As protagonist of one of the outstanding intellectual circles in early enlightened Europe, Mme Du Châtelet would soon become known to her contemporaries as the author of highly original philosophical and scientific works. Starting her career as a public writer with the academic prize essay Discours de la propagation du feu, she would subsequently engage in a much-noticed debate on the forces vives with the secretary of the Académie Royale des Sciences, Jean Jacques Dortous de Mairan. Her foremost reputation was, however, achieved by her commentated translation of Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1759). Published but ten years after her death, Mme Du Châtelet’s translation of Newton’s magnum opus still remains the leading, and sole comprehensive translation of that epoch-defining work into the French language.

    Her own major work, the Institutions Physiques (first edition 1740), sought to reconcile complex ideas from the leading thinkers of her time, including Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Christian Wolff, Isaac Newton, James Jurin, Willem ‘s Gravesande, Daniel Bernoulli and Johann II Bernoulli. The Institutions Physiques were reissued and translated into German and Italian within two years of the first edition. In 1746, Mme Du Châtelet was elected as member of the Bologna Academy of Sciences.

  • Critical Editions

    The HWPS is, in cooperation with the Voltaire Library at the National Library of Russia (Российская национальная библиотека), St. Peterburg (NLR), currently preparing a critical online edition of the manuscripts of Émilie Du Châtelet that have been preserved in the Voltaire Library at the NLR.

    The cooperation HWPS – NLR includes the digitization of the entire St. Petersburg manuscript corpus, and the first comprehensive, and reliable, edition of the texts, none of which has, till now, been published according to the standards of a scholarly edition, and some of which will even be published for the first time (responsible: Stefanie Ertz).

    The St. Petersburg corpus – about 475 pages, partly autograph, partly copies with autograph corrections and annotations – comprises, besides some shorter notes on Cartesian and Newtonian physics, three pieces of major importance, namely,

    • the translation of Bernard Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees,
    • the “Chapitre V. sur la liberté”, which, most obviously, had originally been intended to be a part of the Institutions de Physique,
    • and three chapters from a Grammaire Raisonnée.

     

    Encoding of the texts will be made according to the standards of the TEI P5 Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange [http://www.tei-c.org/Guidelines/P5/]. Each text will be presented in a diplomatic transcription and as critical text with editorial annotations, apparatus and indexes. The possibility of page-wise comparisons with the manuscripts will be granted by permanent mutual links between the edited texts and the manuscript scans on the NLR website.

    Starting with the Grammaire raisonnée, we are also planning print editions of the three major pieces of the St. Petersburg corpus that will include the critical texts, English translations and scholarly commentaries.

    There is likewise prepared a transcription and online edition of the German translation of the Institutions Physiques: Der Frau Marquisinn von Chastellet Naturlehre an Ihren Sohn (1743) which was translated by the editor of the Neue Zeitungen von gelehrten Sachen and member of the Berlin Academy of Sciences, Wolf Balthasar Adolf von Steinwehr (responsible: Andrea Reichenberger).

  • Project: Institutions Physiques: The German Reception
    by Andrea Reichenberger

    Although research on Mme Du Châtelet has produced impressive results in recent decades and led to a unanimous acknowledgement of her highly original contributions to the scientific and metaphysical debates of her epoch, it is equally true that the picture of her intellectual biography is still far from being comprehensive – concerning the entire scope of her intellectual activity as much as the reconstruction of the past and contemporary influences on her thoughts, and the entire scope of her reception in the European Enlightenment.

    Especially the German translation of the Institutions Physiques, Der Frau Marquisinn von Chastellet Naturlehre an Ihren Sohn (1743), translated by the editor of the Neue Zeitungen von gelehrten Sachen and member of the Berlin Academy of Sciences, Wolf Balthasar Adolf von Steinwehr, deserves attention in this context. The discussions on this subject in German newspapers of the 18th century, such as Belustigungen des Verstandes und des Witzes, Göttingische Anzeigen von gelehrten Sachen, or Deutsche Acta Eruditorum, cast new light on the German Enlightenment and its central figure, Immanuel Kant. Even Eugenios Voulgaris, one of the major Greek agents of the Enlightenment in his time, was influenced by the German reception of Mme Du Châtelet’s Institutions Physiques.

     

  • Project: Grammaire raisonnée
    by Stefanie Ertz

    Among other important pieces from the St. Petersburg corpus, also Mme Du Châtelet’s grammar fragments were already published in 1947 by the historian of Voltaire and the French Enlightenment, Ira O. Wade.  In contrast to the Mandeville-translation and, more recently, the chapter on the metaphysics of the free will, the grammar fragments have attracted astonishingly little interest until now. Our research project aims at re-contextualising Mme Du Châtelet’s linguistic thought both in her own intellectual biography and in contemporary language philosophy.

     

  • Bibliography

     

  • Publications by Members of the Center

    Books/Editions

    Hagengruber, Ruth (ed.). 2011. Emilie du Châtelet between Leibniz and Newton (International Archives of the History of Ideas, volume 205). Dordrecht et al.: Springer.

    Reviews:

     

    Reichenberger, Andrea. 2016. Émilie du Châtelets „Institutions physiques“. Über die Rolle von Prinzipien und Hypothesen in der Physik. Wiesbaden: Springer.

    Hagengruber, Ruth/Hecht, Hartmut (eds.). 2017. Emilie du Châtelet und die Deutsche Aufklärung. Wiesbaden: Springer. (forthcoming)

     

    Articles

    • Hagengruber, Ruth. 1999. „Emilie du Châtelet an Maupertuis. Eine Metaphysik in Briefen. “ In: Hecht, Hartmut (ed.). Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis. Eine Bilanz nach 300 Jahren. Berlin: Spitz, pp. 187–206.
    • Hagengruber, Ruth. 2011. “Emilie Du Châtelet between Leibniz and Newton: The Transformation of Metaphysics.” In: Hagengruber, Ruth (ed.). 2011. Emilie du Châtelet between Leibniz and Newton. Dodrecht et al.: Springer, pp. 1–59.
    • Hagengruber, Ruth. 2016. “Emilie du Châtelet, 1706–1749: Transformer of Metaphysics and Scientist.” The Mathematical Intelligencer 38:4, pp. 1–6. doi:10.1007/s00283-016-9660-3
    • Reichenberger, Andrea. 2011. “Leibniz’s Quantity of Force: A Heresy? Émilie du Châtelet’s Institutions in the Context of the Vis Viva Controversy.” In: Hagengruber, Ruth (ed.). Emilie du Châtelet between Leibniz und Newton. Dordrecht et al.: Springer, pp. 157–171.
    • Reichenberger, Andrea. 2017. Principes mathématiques de la philosophie naturelle. La traduction française des Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica [book review]. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 25:4, pp. 837–839.
    • Reichenberger, Andrea. 2017. „Die Rolle der Familie Keyserlingk und des Gottsched-Kreises für Kants Du Châtelet-Rezeption.“ In: Hagengruber, Ruth/Hecht, Hartmut (eds.). 2017. Emilie Du Châtelet und die deutsche Aufklärung. Wiesbaden: Springer (forthcoming).
    • Rodrigues, Ana. 2008. “Emilie du Châtelet – Glück zwischen Leidenschaft und Vernunft / Emilie du Châtelet – Happiness between Passion and Reason.” Spirale der Zeit 4, pp. 36–39.
    • Rodrigues, Ana. 2010a. „Emilie du Châtelet, Julien Offray de La Mettrie und Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis im Zwiegespräch über das Glück.“ In: Hagengruber, Ruth/Rodrigues, Ana (eds.). Von Diana zu Minerva. Philosophierende Aristokratinnen des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts und ihre Netzwerke. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, pp. 153–161.
    • Rodrigues, Ana. 2010b. “Emilie du Châtelet – Vom glücklichen Leben zur Freiheit des Denkens“. In: Hagengruber, Ruth/Rodrigues, Ana (eds.). Von Diana zu Minerva. Philosophierende Aristokratinnen des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts und ihre Netzwerke. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, pp. 97–107.
    • Rodrigues, Ana. 2011. Review of: Kölving, Ulla/Courcelle, Olivier. Émilie Du Châtelet: Éclairages & documents nouveaux (Ferney Voltaire: Centre international d’étude du XVIIIe siècle). In: Das achtzehnte Jahrhundert 35/2.
    • Rodrigues, Ana. 2011. “Emilie du Châtelet, a Bibliography In: Hagengruber, Ruth (ed.). Emilie du Châtelet between Leibniz und Newton. Dordrecht et al.: Springer, pp. 207–246.
    • Rodrigues, Ana [Rey, Anne-Lise]. 2017. „Der Streit um die lebendigen Kräfte in Du Châtelets Institutions de physique: Leibniz, Wolff und Koenig.“ [Translation of Anne-Lise Rey] In: Hagengruber, Ruth / Hecht, Hartmut (eds.). 2017. Emilie Du Châtelet und die deutsche Aufklärung. Wiesbaden: Springer. (forthcoming)

     

     

  • Media
    Prof. Dr. Judith P. Zinsser (Miami University, Oxford, USA) recorded two podcast at the Center:

    Judith P. Zinsser – Interview on her work about Émilie Du Châtelet

    Prof. Judith P. Zinsser (Miami University, Oxford, USA) and Ana Rodrigues (Paderborn University, Germany) talk about women in the history of philosophy and the French philosopher Émilie Du Châtelet in particular.

     

    Judith P. Zinsser on Émilie Du Châtelet’s relevance today

  • introduction

    Women played a pivotal role in spreading the ideas of the European Enlightenment. However, one woman did not only illuminate the Enlightenment through her writings, but also set the course for the future. She was the French mathematician, physicist and philosopher Émilie Du Châtelet (1706-1749).

    From its beginnings, one focus of the Center for the History of Women Philosophers and Scientists has been on the scientific revaluation of the prominent role played by Mme Du Châtelet in 18th century history of philosophy and science. Recent research on Mme Du Châtelet at the HWPS covers two areas:

    1. Critical Editions

    In cooperation with the National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg (NLR), the entire inventory of Du Châtelet-manuscripts preserved in the Voltaire-Library at the NLR is being digitized. A critical online edition of the St. Petersburg manuscripts is currently being prepared at the HWPS.

    A transcription and online edition of the German translation of the Institutions Physiques: Der Frau Marquisinn von Chastellet Naturlehre an Ihren Sohn (1743), is also being prepared.

    2. Research Projects

    Grammaire Raisonnée
    The St. Petersburg manuscript corpus comprises three chapters from a rational grammar that was most obviously intended to be part of a more comprehensive treatise on logics and epistemology. Besides the online edition of the text, we are preparing a printed edition that will include an extensive scholarly commentary.

    Institutions Physiques: The German Reception
    The enormous influence of Émilie Du Châtelet’s thoughts and works on the German period of Enlightenment has, up until now, not been researched in depth. The research project focuses on the German reception of Émilie Du Châtelet from Christian Wolff and the Gottscheds to Immanuel Kant.


  • Philosopher's Profile

    Émilie Du Châtelet was an outstanding woman philosopher of the early 18th century not only through her uncompromising intellect, but also through the extensive range of subject-matters covered by her works, most of which, however, remained unpublished during her lifetime.

    Both exceptionally skilled and exceptionally trained in humanist and natural sciences as a young girl, she became the lover and life-long intellectual companion of Voltaire in 1734. At her husband’s estate in Cirey both established a scientific laboratory and a vast library that would attract scholars from many European countries even after Mme Du Châtelet’s premature death in 1749.

    As protagonist of one of the outstanding intellectual circles in early enlightened Europe, Mme Du Châtelet would soon become known to her contemporaries as the author of highly original philosophical and scientific works. Starting her career as a public writer with the academic prize essay Discours de la propagation du feu, she would subsequently engage in a much-noticed debate on the forces vives with the secretary of the Académie Royale des Sciences, Jean Jacques Dortous de Mairan. Her foremost reputation was, however, achieved by her commentated translation of Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1759). Published but ten years after her death, Mme Du Châtelet’s translation of Newton’s magnum opus still remains the leading, and sole comprehensive translation of that epoch-defining work into the French language.

    Her own major work, the Institutions Physiques (first edition 1740), sought to reconcile complex ideas from the leading thinkers of her time, including Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Christian Wolff, Isaac Newton, James Jurin, Willem ‘s Gravesande, Daniel Bernoulli and Johann II Bernoulli. The Institutions Physiques were reissued and translated into German and Italian within two years of the first edition. In 1746, Mme Du Châtelet was elected as member of the Bologna Academy of Sciences.

  • Critical Editions

    The HWPS is, in cooperation with the Voltaire Library at the National Library of Russia (Российская национальная библиотека), St. Peterburg (NLR), currently preparing a critical online edition of the manuscripts of Émilie Du Châtelet that have been preserved in the Voltaire Library at the NLR.

    The cooperation HWPS – NLR includes the digitization of the entire St. Petersburg manuscript corpus, and the first comprehensive, and reliable, edition of the texts, none of which has, till now, been published according to the standards of a scholarly edition, and some of which will even be published for the first time (responsible: Stefanie Ertz).

    The St. Petersburg corpus – about 475 pages, partly autograph, partly copies with autograph corrections and annotations – comprises, besides some shorter notes on Cartesian and Newtonian physics, three pieces of major importance, namely,

    • the translation of Bernard Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees,
    • the “Chapitre V. sur la liberté”, which, most obviously, had originally been intended to be a part of the Institutions de Physique,
    • and three chapters from a Grammaire Raisonnée.

     

    Encoding of the texts will be made according to the standards of the TEI P5 Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange [http://www.tei-c.org/Guidelines/P5/]. Each text will be presented in a diplomatic transcription and as critical text with editorial annotations, apparatus and indexes. The possibility of page-wise comparisons with the manuscripts will be granted by permanent mutual links between the edited texts and the manuscript scans on the NLR website.

    Starting with the Grammaire raisonnée, we are also planning print editions of the three major pieces of the St. Petersburg corpus that will include the critical texts, English translations and scholarly commentaries.

    There is likewise prepared a transcription and online edition of the German translation of the Institutions Physiques: Der Frau Marquisinn von Chastellet Naturlehre an Ihren Sohn (1743) which was translated by the editor of the Neue Zeitungen von gelehrten Sachen and member of the Berlin Academy of Sciences, Wolf Balthasar Adolf von Steinwehr (responsible: Andrea Reichenberger).

  • Project: Institutions Physiques: The German Reception
    by Andrea Reichenberger

    Although research on Mme Du Châtelet has produced impressive results in recent decades and led to a unanimous acknowledgement of her highly original contributions to the scientific and metaphysical debates of her epoch, it is equally true that the picture of her intellectual biography is still far from being comprehensive – concerning the entire scope of her intellectual activity as much as the reconstruction of the past and contemporary influences on her thoughts, and the entire scope of her reception in the European Enlightenment.

    Especially the German translation of the Institutions Physiques, Der Frau Marquisinn von Chastellet Naturlehre an Ihren Sohn (1743), translated by the editor of the Neue Zeitungen von gelehrten Sachen and member of the Berlin Academy of Sciences, Wolf Balthasar Adolf von Steinwehr, deserves attention in this context. The discussions on this subject in German newspapers of the 18th century, such as Belustigungen des Verstandes und des Witzes, Göttingische Anzeigen von gelehrten Sachen, or Deutsche Acta Eruditorum, cast new light on the German Enlightenment and its central figure, Immanuel Kant. Even Eugenios Voulgaris, one of the major Greek agents of the Enlightenment in his time, was influenced by the German reception of Mme Du Châtelet’s Institutions Physiques.

     

  • Project: Grammaire raisonnée
    by Stefanie Ertz

    Among other important pieces from the St. Petersburg corpus, also Mme Du Châtelet’s grammar fragments were already published in 1947 by the historian of Voltaire and the French Enlightenment, Ira O. Wade.  In contrast to the Mandeville-translation and, more recently, the chapter on the metaphysics of the free will, the grammar fragments have attracted astonishingly little interest until now. Our research project aims at re-contextualising Mme Du Châtelet’s linguistic thought both in her own intellectual biography and in contemporary language philosophy.

     

  • Bibliography

     

  • Publications by Members of the Center

    Books/Editions

    Hagengruber, Ruth (ed.). 2011. Emilie du Châtelet between Leibniz and Newton (International Archives of the History of Ideas, volume 205). Dordrecht et al.: Springer.

    Reviews:

     

    Reichenberger, Andrea. 2016. Émilie du Châtelets „Institutions physiques“. Über die Rolle von Prinzipien und Hypothesen in der Physik. Wiesbaden: Springer.

    Hagengruber, Ruth/Hecht, Hartmut (eds.). 2017. Emilie du Châtelet und die Deutsche Aufklärung. Wiesbaden: Springer. (forthcoming)

     

    Articles

    • Hagengruber, Ruth. 1999. „Emilie du Châtelet an Maupertuis. Eine Metaphysik in Briefen. “ In: Hecht, Hartmut (ed.). Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis. Eine Bilanz nach 300 Jahren. Berlin: Spitz, pp. 187–206.
    • Hagengruber, Ruth. 2011. “Emilie Du Châtelet between Leibniz and Newton: The Transformation of Metaphysics.” In: Hagengruber, Ruth (ed.). 2011. Emilie du Châtelet between Leibniz and Newton. Dodrecht et al.: Springer, pp. 1–59.
    • Hagengruber, Ruth. 2016. “Emilie du Châtelet, 1706–1749: Transformer of Metaphysics and Scientist.” The Mathematical Intelligencer 38:4, pp. 1–6. doi:10.1007/s00283-016-9660-3
    • Reichenberger, Andrea. 2011. “Leibniz’s Quantity of Force: A Heresy? Émilie du Châtelet’s Institutions in the Context of the Vis Viva Controversy.” In: Hagengruber, Ruth (ed.). Emilie du Châtelet between Leibniz und Newton. Dordrecht et al.: Springer, pp. 157–171.
    • Reichenberger, Andrea. 2017. Principes mathématiques de la philosophie naturelle. La traduction française des Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica [book review]. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 25:4, pp. 837–839.
    • Reichenberger, Andrea. 2017. „Die Rolle der Familie Keyserlingk und des Gottsched-Kreises für Kants Du Châtelet-Rezeption.“ In: Hagengruber, Ruth/Hecht, Hartmut (eds.). 2017. Emilie Du Châtelet und die deutsche Aufklärung. Wiesbaden: Springer (forthcoming).
    • Rodrigues, Ana. 2008. “Emilie du Châtelet – Glück zwischen Leidenschaft und Vernunft / Emilie du Châtelet – Happiness between Passion and Reason.” Spirale der Zeit 4, pp. 36–39.
    • Rodrigues, Ana. 2010a. „Emilie du Châtelet, Julien Offray de La Mettrie und Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis im Zwiegespräch über das Glück.“ In: Hagengruber, Ruth/Rodrigues, Ana (eds.). Von Diana zu Minerva. Philosophierende Aristokratinnen des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts und ihre Netzwerke. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, pp. 153–161.
    • Rodrigues, Ana. 2010b. “Emilie du Châtelet – Vom glücklichen Leben zur Freiheit des Denkens“. In: Hagengruber, Ruth/Rodrigues, Ana (eds.). Von Diana zu Minerva. Philosophierende Aristokratinnen des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts und ihre Netzwerke. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, pp. 97–107.
    • Rodrigues, Ana. 2011. Review of: Kölving, Ulla/Courcelle, Olivier. Émilie Du Châtelet: Éclairages & documents nouveaux (Ferney Voltaire: Centre international d’étude du XVIIIe siècle). In: Das achtzehnte Jahrhundert 35/2.
    • Rodrigues, Ana. 2011. “Emilie du Châtelet, a Bibliography In: Hagengruber, Ruth (ed.). Emilie du Châtelet between Leibniz und Newton. Dordrecht et al.: Springer, pp. 207–246.
    • Rodrigues, Ana [Rey, Anne-Lise]. 2017. „Der Streit um die lebendigen Kräfte in Du Châtelets Institutions de physique: Leibniz, Wolff und Koenig.“ [Translation of Anne-Lise Rey] In: Hagengruber, Ruth / Hecht, Hartmut (eds.). 2017. Emilie Du Châtelet und die deutsche Aufklärung. Wiesbaden: Springer. (forthcoming)

     

     

  • Media
    Prof. Dr. Judith P. Zinsser (Miami University, Oxford, USA) recorded two podcast at the Center:

    Judith P. Zinsser – Interview on her work about Émilie Du Châtelet

    Prof. Judith P. Zinsser (Miami University, Oxford, USA) and Ana Rodrigues (Paderborn University, Germany) talk about women in the history of philosophy and the French philosopher Émilie Du Châtelet in particular.

     

    Judith P. Zinsser on Émilie Du Châtelet’s relevance today