Foundations of Physics

in Selected Philosophical and Scientific Writings

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780226168067
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226168081 | DOI:
Foundations of Physics

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This chapter presents a set of selections from Marquise Du Châtelet's major work of natural philosophy, the Foundations of Physics, published in Paris in 1740, when she was just thirty-four. “Natural philosophy” is a phrase coined in seventeenth-century England. Like Du Châtelet, the “natural philosopher” sought to describe not only the mechanics of the natural world but also the first causes of phenomena such as motion and gravity, and the role of God. The French used three words to describe those who excelled in this kind of knowledge: philosophe [philosopher], géomètre [mathematician], and physicien [physicist]. Du Châtelet's letter to her bookseller and publisher, Laurent François Prault, included in this collection, gives some idea of the scope of her reading as she worked to become proficient in each of these categories. The Foundations demonstrates Du Châtelet's mastery of mathematics, in particular René Descartes' analytic geometry. This chapter also includes Du Châtelet's letters to Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis and to Johann Bernoulli II.

Keywords: Marquise Du Châtelet; natural philosophy; Foundations of Physics; letters; Laurent François Prault; mathematics; René Descartes; analytic geometry; Moreau de Maupertuis; Johann Bernoulli II

Chapter.  42067 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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