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La Dame D'Esprit: A Biography of Marquise Du Chateletby Judith Zinsser
Synopses & Reviews
The scintillating life of the most brilliant woman of the French Enlightenment, the lover of Voltaire and translator of Newton
Gabrielle Emilie le Tonnelier de Breteuil was born to the highest circles of the French aristocracy, married a marquis at the age of eighteen, and indulged in all the pleasures of her class. Then at twenty-seven, defying convention, she became the mistress of poet and playwright Voltaire, embarking on an extraordinary and transformative intellectual journey as his patroness, his lover, and his companion. In this sparkling life, Judith P. Zinsser vividly explores how the Marquise Du Châtelet transformed herself from courtier, wife, and mother into one of the leading intellects of the French Enlightenment.
Freed by her wealth and status to pursue a life of the mind, Du Châtelet developed swiftly into an accomplished mathematician, physicist, translator, and author of original works of philosophy and science. At the end of her life, pregnant by a young new lover, she raced to complete her translation and commentary on Newto‛s Principia. The only woman of the Enlightenment to be recognized for her genius, Du Châtelet was centuries ahead of her time. By bringing this singular woman to life with style and wit, Zinsser at last gives this revolutionary her due.
"The 300th birthday of the 18th-century French noblewoman, scientist, freethinker (she considered Jesus 'a pious fraud') and paramour of Voltaire brings the second new biography. David Bodanis's Passionate Minds presents her life essentially as a romance novel. Historian Zinsser (A History of Their Own) says more about her subject's scientific work, which groped toward a modern conception of kinetic energy and included an influential recasting of Newton's work on the calculus. Du Chtelet (1706-1749) was certainly an emblematic, if not quite pivotal, figure in the ferment of 18th-century European science and philosophy, and her works could ground an illuminating and accessible intellectual history of the age, but they demand a more systematic treatment than Zinsser gives them. She has a surer footing on social and cultural history, as she surveys the ancien rgime's caste system and court protocol at Versailles and regales readers with details of du Chtelet's luxurious wardrobe and household furnishings, as well as her struggle for acceptance by the male scientific establishment. All this makes for an enjoyable study of an unusual woman and feminist pioneer, but du Chtelet still awaits a biography that does full justice to her ideas. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The captivating biography of the French aristocrat who balanced the demands of her society with passionate affairs of the heart and a brilliant life of the mind
Although today she is best known for her fifteen-year liaison with Voltaire, Gabrielle Emilie le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise Du Châtelet (1706-1749) was more than a great man's mistress. After marrying a marquis at the age of eighteen, she proceeded to fulfill the prescribed-and delightfully frivolous-role of a French noblewoman of her time. But she also challenged it, conducting a highly visible affair with a commoner, writing philosophical works, and translating Newton's Principia while pregnant by a younger lover. With the sweep of Galileo's Daughter, Emilie Du Châtelet captures the charm, glamour, and brilliance of this magnetic woman.
Zinsser vividly explores how the Marquise Du Chatelet transformed herself from courtier, wife, and mother into one of the leading intellects of the French Enlightenment.
About the Author
Judith P. Zinsser is the coauthor of the landmark two-volume history of European women, A History of Their Own. She teaches at Miami University in Ohio.
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