Émilie Du Châtelet's interpretation of the laws of motion in the light of 18th century mechanics

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Émilie Du Châtelet is well known for her French translation of Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. It is the first and only French translation of Newton's magnum opus. The complete work appeared in 1759 under the title Principes mathématiques de la philosophie naturelle, par feue Madame la Marquise Du Chastellet. Before translating Newton's Principia, Du Châtelet worked on her Institutions de physique. In this book she defended the Leibnizian concept of living forces – vis viva. This paper argues that both of these works were part of a critical transformation and consolidation of post-Newtonian mechanics in the early 18th century, beyond Newton and Leibniz. This will be shown by comparing Du Châtelet's translation of Newton's axioms with her own formulations of the laws of motion in light of Thomas Le Seur's and François Jacquier's Geneva edition which holds a special place among the several editions of the Principia that appeared in the early 18th century.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A
StatePublished - Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Geneva edition
  • Laws of motion
  • Newton's Principia
  • vis viva controversy
  • Émilie Du Châtelet


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