Seduced by Logic: Emilie Du Chatelet, Mary Somerville and the Newtonian Revolution

Hardcover | September 6, 2012

byRobyn Arianrhod

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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.

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From the Publisher

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....

Robyn Arianrhod is an Honorary Research Associate in the School of Mathematical Sciences at Monash University. She is the author of Einstein's Heroes.

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Paperback|Jul 15 2006

$19.97 online$22.00list price(save 9%)
Format:HardcoverDimensions:352 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:September 6, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199931615

ISBN - 13:9780199931613

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. Madame Newton du Chatelet2. Creating the theory of gravity: the Newtonian controversy3. Learning mathematics and fighting for freedom4. Emilie and Voltaire's Academy of Free Thought5. Testing Newton: the'New Argonauts'6. The danger in Newton: life, love and politics7. The nature of light: Emilie takes on Newton8. Searching for 'energy': Emilie discovers Leibniz9. Mathematics and free will10. The re-emergence of Madame Newton du Chatelet11. Love letters to Saint-Lambert12. Mourning Emilie13. Mary Fairfax Somerville14. The long road to fame15. Mechanism of the Heavens16. Mary's second book: popular science in the nineteenth century17. Finding light waves: the 'Newtonian Revolution' comes of age18. Mary Somerville: a fortunate lifeEpilogue: Declaring a point of view