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Women Who Changed History-- From Madame Chatelet, Formulas, Voltaire and Glamour behind a Palace

Updated on September 22, 2012


Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Madame Du Chatelet, a French physicist, author and mathermatician, born in 1706, was an avid reader since her childhood. Her most importan work as an author was her translation of Newtow's 'Principia Matematica'. in 1729 met the already famous francois de Arouet, 'Voltaire' for his friends. Her love for him was academic and infatuated by his writings. In 1738 she was studying an advanced method for Euler formula. Her knowledge about astronomy was beyond her time. She was afraid she was going to be considered a witch for her discoveries, but took her time in doing research. Voltaire was always moving around and for two or three times he was sent to Saint Vincent prison for incendiary publications against nobles or the upper class society. In May 1748, Du Châtelet began an affair with the poet Jean Francois de Saint Lambert and became pregnant. In a letter to a friend, she confided her fears that she would not survive her pregnancy. On the night of 3 September 1749, she gave birth to a daughter, Stanislas-Adélaïde, but died a week later from a pulmonary embolism. Unfortunately her daughter died eighteen months later too. Voltaire was so devastated as well as her husband. In those days a second relationship was allowed as customary. Even names as mistresses or lovers were a hidden title earnestly earned. Today's legacy is our french kissing. Madame du Chatelet was visionary in all aspects of sciences. Before Einstein came out with his famous formula E = mc², she knew of the relationship between energy and matter. In 1737, Châtelet published a Dissertation over nature and propagation of fire, based upon her research that predicted what is today known as infrared radiation and the nature of light. Her mentors were Johann Bernoulli, and Leonhard Euler. By 1735, however, du Châtelet had turned for her mathematical training to Alexis Clairaut, a mathematical prodigy known best for Clairaut's equation. She wrote letters to different people, arguing about how women were left behind regarding education. Voltaire declared on a letter to his benefactor the King of Prussia that du Châtelet was "a great man whose only fault was being a woman."

Françoise-Louise de Warens, born Louise Éléonore de la Tour du Pil, also called Madame de Warens (31 March 1699[1] - 29 July 1762[2]), was the benefactress and mistress of a future father of the French revolution. She was born in Vevey, from a very protestant background; when she was very young her family moved to Annecy. Her life was full of ambiguities and misinterpretations. In 1726 she renounced her Protestantism to embrace Catholicism. It's said that she was a spy for the King of Sardinia and her constant trips to Paris were mostly to fulfil her needs, since she was always in financial distress. In 1728 she sponsored this 16 year old converter. His name? Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Becaming his adopted mom and his mistress. She changed the course of his life forever, nurturing his soul and spirit with good music and an extensive Library. Rousseau went to Paris in 1743 to try fortune with his new method of writing music. His Mamman lost track of him for 25 years until he found of her death, six years later, in august of 1768. Long before, 1766 Rousseau published his 'Emilie', 'The Social Contract' and 'the New Heloise'. Rousseau fell for this woman as no one ever did. "It was a Palm sunday back in 1728, when I met this woman on her way to church. I was a young boy, a wanderer per se. She took me in and never let me go." Madame de Warens was awared of his writing skills and encouraged them with passion and admiration. To her last hours, she told people in Chambery, that he was the son she never had, and that her ways were as close as his; always free and happy as any child.


Born on november 2, 1755. She was the fifteenth and penultimate child of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and Emperor Francis I. Was crowned in 1774 after her husband Louis XVI ascended the throne upon the death of Louis XV. Misunderstood by many for her spending money prodigiously and who was extravagant and recklessly wasteful. Her unpopularity undermined the monarchy as an institution

"Finally I recalled the stopgap solution of a great princess who was told that the peasants had no bread, and who responded: 'Let them eat cake.'" Confessions, BOOK VI, 1767.

Marie Antoinette was 12 years old, when Rousseau wrote that phrase in his autobiography. On july 14th, 1789, the meek took the Tulleries and Versailles Palace. Louis XVI was unable to contain and satisfy his subjects. His ineffectiveness and recklessness gave way to his downfall. Their children had no guilt whatsoever. She was a good mother after all and the calummnity of incest with her son undermined her spirit to her final day of her execution on October 16, 1793.


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  • Lord De Cross profile image

    Joseph De Cross 6 years ago

    Thanks ladies and Frank! There are thousand onf unheard heroes with skirts. You can go from amdame Curie to First ladies from different countries. I have heard of prime ministers and Latin American Presidents that did better that the male conterparts. Women need some space to do their job. Forgot about the Astronauts and Scientist from unknown countries.


  • Kathleen Cochran profile image

    Kathleen Cochran 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

    These women who changed history are well worth a hub! Thanks for the introduction and looking forward to more of the same.

  • Frank Atanacio profile image

    Frank Atanacio 6 years ago from Shelton

    Lord a very well written Hub cheers :)

  • phdast7 profile image

    Theresa Ast 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

    Interesting essay on three rather extraordinary French women. And they lived during the Enlightenment when aristocratic women maintained salons and were able to participate in cultural and intellectual life to an extent never seen before. It is hard to imagine that they would have been tolerated in the 1500's. Nice work.

  • Lord De Cross profile image

    Joseph De Cross 6 years ago

    Hi There Melovy,

    Madame Du Chatelet, was beyong her time. Her problem was her involvenment woth Voltaire...Being herself married. Bakc in the 18th Century, Courts and Vasalles were allowed to have Mistresses and the male counterpart. Even Marie Antoinette, as far as we remember. Her big mistake was to get pregnant after her early forties and either you survive childbirth or just go into History. Thanks for your stopping by Melovy.


  • Melovy profile image

    Yvonne Spence 6 years ago from UK

    This is an interesting hub. I hadn’t heard of the first two women. In particular I found Madame Du Chatelet’s story interesting, that she knew so much before even Einstein. It is interesting who gets the recognition in history and who doesn’t. I laughed last week as we went to recently reopened gallery that had a section entitled something like Bringing Women in History into the Light - the section was tiny and tucked away from most of the gallery.

  • Lord De Cross profile image

    Joseph De Cross 6 years ago

    Very appreciated for your support Epigramman. Seems that we are gonna make a solid friendship like it should be here at HP. Thanks for your comments and will be checking some of your own hubs...been running around!


  • epigramman profile image

    epigramman 6 years ago

    ....well this is an absolutely essential and world class hub subject and will be posted proudly to my Facebook page with a direct link back here. More people gotta see/read this great presentation by you and the epi-man being a feminist thinks it's time for some overdue recogniton of these ladies .....

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  • Lord De Cross profile image

    Joseph De Cross 6 years ago

    Suziecat7, thanks for stoping by. 7 or more women were left out. Cleopatra, Josephine, Eva Brown, Madonna...Madonna? Why not?.. and so on! Myley Cirus please! Not your turn yet!

  • suziecat7 profile image

    suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

    My kind of Hub. Thanks for the great read.

  • Lord De Cross profile image

    Joseph De Cross 6 years ago

    Tres bien!! I did not notice it Spiffy Darrel. But thanks for sharing. You might like the interview with Monsieur Rousseau as well.

  • SpiffyD profile image

    SpiffyD 6 years ago from The Caribbean

    Many of the influential women were French :)