For the first time, the French text of Émilie Du Châtelet’s Essai sur l’Optique–her essay on optics–is now available. The release of the text represents an international collaboration and more than two years of work on four manuscript sources. Scholars working on Du Châtelet, women in early modern philosophy, and the history of science and optics will all find something valuable in this first edition of the Essai.
Her work on optics opens a new window onto Du Châtelet’s natural philosophy as a whole. The text follows Isaac Newton’s approach and mimics many of his principles and experiments. She turns away from this approach later in her career, however, and so the Essai forms a turning point for her thought about the natural world.
Much work remains to be done on Du Châtelet’s view of light. This online version does not account for the many intricacies and complexities of all the manuscript sources. A forthcoming edition will do just this, using all manuscripts to present a complete version of the Essai, together with Du Châtelet’s revisions and emendations.
We hope you enjoy this first edition, and we welcome your feedback. Write us at Project Vox, and visit emps.me/bryce for updates on the ongoing manuscript work. For more information on the work that went into this transcription, see this story in Duke Today!