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Emilie Du Chatelet: Daring Genius of the Enlightenment Paperback – November 27, 2007
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"Today's women will find much that is familiar in Du ChGtelet's multitasking lifestyle, which Zinsser . . . describes with understandable and infectious appreciation."
-The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Judith P. Zinsser is co-author of the landmark two-volume history of European women, A History of Their Own, and teaches at Miami University in Ohio. A recognized expert on the Marquise Du Châtelet, she was featured in October on the PBS Nova special Einstein’s Big Idea.
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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?