Seduced by Logic

Seduced by Logic

Émilie Du Châtelet, Mary Somerville, and the Newtonian Revolution

Book - 2012
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Newton's explanations of natural laws shattered the way mankind perceived the universe, and hence were not immediately embraced. How can anyone warm to a force that could not be seen or touched? But for two women, separated by time and space but joined in their passion for Newtonian physics,that force drove them to great achievements. Brilliant, determined, and almost entirely self-taught, they dedicated their lives to explaining and disseminating Newton's discoveries.Robyn Arianrhod's Seduced by Logic tells the dual biography of Emilie du Chatelet and Mary Somerville, who, despite living a century apart, were connected by their love for mathematics and their places at the heart of the most advanced scientific society of their age. When Newton published hisrevolutionary theory of gravity in 1687, most of his Continental peers rejected it for its reliance on physical observation and mathematical insight and its lack of religious or metaphysical hypotheses. But the brilliant French aristocrat and intellectual Emilie du Chatelet and some of her earlyeighteenth-century Enlightenment colleagues - including her lover, Voltaire - realized the Principia Mathematica had changed everything, marking the beginning of theoretical science as a predictive, quantitative, and secular discipline. Emilie devoted herself to furthering Newton's ideas in France,and her translation of the Principia became the accepted French version of his work. Almost a century later, in Scotland, Mary Somerville taught herself mathematics and rose from genteel poverty to become a world authority on Newtonian physics. Living in France, she became acquainted with the workof one of Newton's proteges, Pierre Simon Laplace, and translated his six-volume Celestial Mechanics into English. It remained the standard astronomy text for the next century, and was considered the most influential work since Principia. Combining biography and history of science, Seduced by Logic not only reveals the fascinating story of two incredibly talented women, but also brings to life a period of dramatic political and scientific change. With lucidity and skill, Arianrhod reveals the intimate links between the unfoldingNewtonian revolution and the origins of intellectual and political liberty.
Publisher: New York : Oxford University Press, c2012.
ISBN: 9780199931613
0199931615
Characteristics: 338 p. ; 25 cm.

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