18 TH C ENTURY : T HE A GE OF E NLIGHTENMENT Scientific and intellectual developments International System of Thought Philosophy Rousseau Voltaire
T HE D EBATE OF THE A CADEMY OF THE R ICOVRATI 1723 Head of the Academy demanded that “old questions, customs and beliefs be reevaluated and put to the test of reason.” Transcript became a published text in 1729 Served as a preview to the continuing controversy of women’s education over the course of the Italian Enlightenment.
EDUCATION IN EUROPE FOR WOMEN Options: Convents Salons Tutors
MARIA GAETANA AGNESI (1718-1799) Milan, Italy Family life One of 21 children Devoted to her father Education Languages Tutors Religious vs. Family Convictions “The rule of Maria Gaetana’s life, I think, was passionate obedience.” -C. Truesdell
A GNESI ’ S ACCOMPLISHMENTS Published Propositiones philosophicae. 191 theses on various sciences. Published two volume Instituzioni Analitche. Offered the chair of mathematics and natural philosophy at University of Bologna
A GNESI ’ S THOUGHTS ON EDUCATION Oral Translation at Age Nine Maria Gaetana Agnesi et alia: The Contest for Knowledge: Debates Over Women’s Education in Eighteenth Century Italy Leads by example “…I might assert with my voice, how adverse to the truth is the opinion of those who very stubbornly insist that the studies of the liberal arts are altogether unsuitable in women.” -from The Contest for Knowledge
D EDICATION OF HER BOOK “ For if at any time there can be an excuse for the rashness of a Woman, who ventures to aspire to the subtleties of a science, which knows no bounds, not even those of infinity itself, it certainly should be at this glorious period, in which a Woman reigns, and reigns with universal applause and admiration. Indeed, I am fully convinced, that in this age, an age which, from your reign, will be distinguished to latest posterity, every Woman ought to exert herself, and endeavor to promote the glory of her sex, and to contribute her utmost to increase that luster, which it happily receives from Your Majesty....." Excerpt from Agnesi Instituzioni analitiche
EMILIE DU CHÂTELET (1706-1749) ”…WAS A GREAT MAN WHOSE ONLY FAULT WAS BEING A WOMAN” -VOLTAIRE Paris, France Education Languages Physical Education Tutors Voltaire’s Mistress
DU CHATELET AS A MATHEMATICIAN/ SCIENTIST Published physics textbook Instituitions de physique Translated Newton’s Principia with commentaries Nature of Fire Essay E=mc 2
D U CHATELET AS A TRANSLATOR Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees Newton’s Principia Sophocles Oedipus Rex “ J’apprends l’italien, non seulement pour l’entendre, mais peut-être pour le traduire un jour. Je m’exerce dans l’art de la traduction, pour m’en rendre digne. Je traduis the fable of the bees de Mandeville; c’est un livre qui mérite que vous le lisiez, si vous ne le connaissez pas; il est amusant et instructif.”
D U C HATELET AS A FEMINIST Words and deeds Actions speak louder than words. Cafés in Paris. Frontispiece to Voltaire's Eléments de la philosophie de Newton (1738) shows Du Châtelet shining the light of truth emanating from Newton onto Voltaire at his desk.
Emilie’s Thoughts on Women’s Education The Translator’s Preface From Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees “ Let the reader ponder why, at no time in the course of so many centuries, a good tragedy, a good poem, a respected tale, a fine painting, a good book on physics has never been produced by women.” - Emilie Du Châtelet “ Qu’on fasse un peu réflexion pourquoi depuis tant des siècles jamais une bonne tragédie, un bon poème, une histoire estimée, un beau tableau, un bon livre de physique n’est sorti de la mains des femmes?” -Emilie Du Châtelet
B OTH DEFENDED WOMEN ’ S EDUCATION Agnesi - started early (at age 9). Spoke out orally, then had speech published. Dedicated her book to strong women. Du Châtelet- translated a book added a compelling preface. Both were good role models and lead by example. Both spoke out in favor on the debate for women’s education!
THE BIG WHAT-IFS? “In mathematics, the wonder is not that so few have attained proficiency in the field, but that so many have overcome obstacles to doing so. We can only speculate about the multitude who were dissuaded from the attempt…” Osen, Women in Mathematics
S PECIAL T HANKS TO : The Summer Research Institute at Hood College: Dr. Mayfield Dr. Tysdal Mel Barrick, Lindsey Nagy, and Chelsea Sprankle The Mathematical Association of America Dr. Victor Katz Bill Dunham Dr. Ron Calinger
W ORKS C ITED Edwards, Samuel. The Divine Mistress. New York: Van Rees Press, 1970. Findlen, Paula and Rebecca Messbarger. The Contest for Knowledge. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005. Goodman, Dena. “Enlightenment Salons: The Convergence of Female and Philosophic Ambitions.” Eighteenth-Century Studies. Spring 1989: 22. Osen, Lynn M. Women in Mathematics. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1974. Schiebinger, Londa. “Feminine Icons: The Face of Early Modern Science.” Critical Inquiry. Summer 1988: 14. Trusdell, Clifford. “Maria Gaetana Agnesi.” Archive for History of Exact Sciences. 1989: 40. Wade, Ira O. Voltaire and Madame Du Chatelet. New York: Octagon Books Inc., 1941. Zinsser, Judith P. La Dame d’Esprit. New York: The Penguin Group, 2006. Zinsser, Judith P. “Translating Newton’s ‘Principia’: The Marquise du Chatelet’s Revisions and Additions for French Audience.” Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London. May 2001: 55.
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