Emilie du Chatelet is the smartest woman you never heard of. Not only was she a fun-loving, sexy beauty, she was a mathematical genius.
Born in 1706 to an aristocratic family, her father respected her intellect enough to allow her to be tutored by some of the best minds in the world. While she was thinking about math, she discovered an error in a critical theory of Sir Isaac Newton’s. But I’ll get to that later.
First, here’s a 2-minute clip that’ll give you an sense of her mind. It’s kind of a silly production, but there isn’t much about the girl on YouTube. (Big surprise.)
It only took 100 years for the scientific community to accept Emilie’s correction of Sir Isaac Newton’s theory of the speed of mass.
Just in time for Albert Einstein, who was influenced by her findings.
But of course, you knew that. Everybody learned about EDC in grade school, right?
I first learned about her in a PBS documentary about Einstein. Here is the link to the video in its entirety. It’s very enjoyable; very well done. Du Chatelet is introduced at the 55 minute mark, but her story really takes off between the 1-hour and 1:08 space. It’s a lovely piece, and I encourage you to watch it, but be warned. It will infuriate you, to know that you’ve never heard of her.
There’s a big push these days to encourage our little girls to stick with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education if they show an interest. As you know, this is because typically, girls lose interest in these subjects at about the age of puberty. There’s significant data to indicate that the reason for this decline is cultural (it’s not a universal gender-related trait.)
Maybe part of the reason our little girls don’t stick with STEM is because they’re not taught about women like Du Chatelet and the others. There are no models to follow. Well, actually, there are. We just need to find and share them. As in the above.
Happy Women’s History Month, my friends. It’s perfectly okay to gloat.