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Emilie Du Chatelet: Daring Genius of the Enlightenment Paperback – Bargain Price, November 27, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics) (November 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143112686
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143112686
  • ASIN: B001IDZK26
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,943,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Today’s women will find much that is familiar in Du Châtelet’s multitasking lifestyle, which Zinsser . . . describes with understandable and infectious appreciation.”
The New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Judith P. Zinsser is a professor of history at Miami University in Ohio. She is coauthor of the acclaimed A History of Their Own and author of History and Feminism.

Customer Reviews

Still, a fine book and the place of choice to go to discover the very great and divine Emilie.
Neil Flowers
Not only is its scholarly detail impressive, but Ms. Zinsser’s writing style is accessible, always interesting, fluid, masterly.
Jane M. Robbins
Judith P. Zinsser provides an enlightening biographical story in Daring Genius of the Enlightenment, Emilie Du Châtelet.
Sallie W. Abbas

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By K. M. VINE VOICE on April 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise Du Châtelet wrote her last lover, the younger army officer Jean François de Saint-Lambert, this self-confident statement (" 'My exterior is always the image of my heart.' ") about herself. In Judith P. Zinsser's biography of this extraordinary eighteenth-century woman, the marquise does appear to have lived her high-born, offbeat, and accomplished forty-two years very much that way.

Judith P. Zinsser's softcover Emilie Du Châtelet : Daring Genius of the Enlightenment (previously published in hardcover with the title La Dame d'Esprit) is a meticulously researched biography that traces Du Châtelet's "unorthodox intellectual pursuits" as well as her family life, her life in the courts of French and Polish kings and queens, and her too public (and often mocked and derided) extramarital life, mainly with the reknown Voltaire.

The exact nature of Du Châtelet's early education isn't known, but after her marriage and several children (of whom only two survived into adulthood), the marquise sought tutors for herself. They, and a great deal of reading taught her geometry, physics, even calculus. Living with Voltaire provided her with cerebral stimulation, some early guidance and the opportunity to collaborate on literary pieces and, to her greater interest, scientific papers.

As time went on, Du Châtelet became more and more independent of opinion; Voltaire, edgily teasing, called her " 'Emilia Neutonia'" in part because of one of their disagreements about physics: whether Newton's definition of "force, the modern concept of 'momentum'," was correct.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Minerva9544 on September 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a book written by a serious historian and it shows. Emilie Du Chatelet was vibrant, sensuous and so brilliant it makes my brain hurt. Unfortunately, this book isn't really about her - it's about the men in her life. Because so little of her personal correspondence has survived or been discovered we are left with a picture drawn from a reflection. Even so, much of the light of her personage shines through. Ms. Zinzzer is a thorough researcher and an excellent academic. However, unless we have the luck of discovering an unknown trove of personal information (letters, diaries, etc.), the very nature of De Chatelet makes her almost more suited as a base for a novel of historical fiction filled with passion and life than for a dry tome of names and dates.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By ManicPanic on February 3, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The soft cover version of Dame d'Espirit, Zinsser's Emilie du Chatelet explores the life of a 18th century woman driven to expand on the scientific and philosophical debates of her day, while also capable of relishing the social and political duties of upper-class women in Enlightenment France.

Zinsser uses an incredible array of historical sources, from Chatelet's writings, to Voltaire's letters, to inventories of 18th century French homes in her vivid recreation of the period and Chatelet's life. A refreshing and decidedly feminine perspectives on Voltaire and the Republic of Letters is welcome here as we see both historical and biographical paradigms rejected and replaced with new scholarship. Zinsser reasserts du Chatelet's place as a scientist and philosopher in her own right, dispelling much of the sexist and erroneous slander directed at du Chatelet in the last few centuries.

As a historian, I am intrigued and delighted with this book. As a reader, there is a significant portion of this novel that could easily be called boring - in-depth explanations of translating Newtonian theory seriously inhibits the flow of this biography as popular literature. Still, the wonderful detail and insight make it worth a boring chapter or two. In what other book could you find a discussion of Newtonian physics alongside an explanation of bathroom habits at Versailles?
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert C. Tunnell on December 21, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is, word for word, the as "La Dame a' Esprit", but in Softcover form. Very misleading if you are a collector of works on Ms Emilie, as I am. Buy one or the other but not both.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sallie W. Abbas on June 11, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Judith P. Zinsser provides an enlightening biographical story in Daring Genius of the Enlightenment, Emilie Du Châtelet. I was only recently made aware of the existence of this remarkable woman who lived from 1706 to 1749. She was a brilliant thinker at a time when women were not expected to do the heavy work of thinking, studying, and engaging in scholarly discussion. Why hadn't I heard of this person before now, amazing representative of her gender?
She established an "Académie" at her country estate at Cirey, France, inviting a number of the "gens qui pensent" to stay for extended periods, to engage there with one another in probing pursuits of scientific truths and higher mathematics.
She also took on the role of protecting Voltaire from himself, as many of his treatises and plays were politically inflammatory, and put him in danger of reprisal.
After a number of years in frivolous engagements as was expected of the wife of a marquis, she discovered the joy of studying math and science -geometry, calculus, physics.
The scientific "heavyweights" at mid-18th Century were wrestling with the nature of matter, motion, force, fire. She wrote on these topics, following much study and experimentation, in her Institutions de physique. Interestingly at the time, there was argument over whether mv or mv2 correctly represented the relation of force and motion. (The truth is that both do), but it divided 17th Century physiciens into two camps.
The calculus was just coming into being and she brought to Cirey a tutor who could assist her to study this new kind of mathematics.
Of Newton's writings in his Principia, she made corrections in the margins.
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