Principes mathématiques de la philosophie naturelle: la traduction française des “Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica” by Isaac Newton and Émilie Du Châtelet edited by Michel Toulmonde
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Émilie Du Châtelet (1706–1749) is one of the greatest female figures in the history of science. Her life story and scientific achievement were amply discussed in the winter 2016 issue of this journal. Her most important scientific contribution was to translate Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica (1687, latest edition 1726) from Latin into French, thereby introducing it definitively to continental Europe. Moreover, she not only translated it but largely rewrote it into a more readable form. Her translation was so good that it was used as such for centuries, and it still is the only complete translation in French of Newton’s foundational work.
The Marquise Du Châtelet passed away on 10 September 1749 in dramatic circumstances: she died in childbirth in the château of Lunéville, in Lorraine. The manuscript was forwarded to Alexis Claude Clairaut (1713–1765), an eminent mathematician who had been Émilie’s tutor, and he published it ten years later in a polished...