Voltaire’s Passionate and Intellectual Mistress, Emilie, Marquise du Chatelet (1706-1749), on Life and Happiness

Prometheus Unbound

An essay at AlterNet.com includes within it a great introduction to a feminist mistress of Voltaire’s, Emilie, Marquise du Chatelet, as well as some choice pieces of wisdom:

Exactly what does it take to make a woman happy?

One of the first to record her answer to that conundrum was the Marquise du Chatelet, whom history has recollected as the jilted mistress of Voltaire. That is short shrift: The brilliant marquise was a mother, a shopaholic, a passionate lover — and most significantly, a revolutionary scientist and mathematician who suspended wooden spheres from the rafters of her country estate to test Newton’s theories, and who scribbled her insights until the candles burned to nothingness, plunging her hands into ice water to jolt herself awake. Her intellectual feverishness prompted the philosopher Immanuel Kant to sneer that such a woman “might as well have a beard,” and Voltaire himself, having received solo title-page credit for…

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