Monday, May 28, 2007
I'm presently reading David Bodanis's book Passionate Minds: the Great Love Affair of the Enlightenment, Featuring the Scientist Emilie Du Chatelet, the Poet Voltaire, Sword Fights, Book Burnings, Assorted Kings, Seditious Verse, and the Birth of the Modern World (whew). It's an account of the decade-long love affair between Emilie du Châtelet, a rare 18th-century woman scientist who wrote an influential commentary on Newton's physics, and the notorious Enlightenment thinker Voltaire. Bodanis gives a real sense of how restricted women's lives were at the time as he describes du Châtelet's struggle to educate herself and work out her ideas, as well as just how dangerous it was (for both her and Voltaire) to have opinions that went against those defined as acceptable by the state. A good read.