"Voltaire and the Newtonian Revolution"

Location: St Cross College

Date: Saturday 28 February 2015

Time: 10:30 - 17:00


Although Voltaire is known predominantly as the leading philosopher, dramatist and poet of the Enlightenment, slightly less well known is his enthusiasm for the work of Newton in many of its aspects (both gravitation and optics) and its role in supplanting the previously dominant Cartesian worldview. In the promotion of the Newtonian theory he was aided in large part by his long-time companion and leading woman scientist of her era, the Marquise Émilie du Châtelet, herself at the forefront of the mathematics of the era and the translator of Newton's Principia into French. This conference explores Voltaire's and du Châtelet's roles in the promotion of Newtonian theory as well as their activities in the physics of their era such as their investigations, both theoretical and experimental, into the nature of fire and combustion.

The programme for the day is below:

MORNING CHAIR: Professor Rana Mitter (University of Oxford)

10.30 am WELCOME

10.40 am Professor Catherine Wilson (University of York) - The Cartesian Background: England and France [VIDEO]

11.30 am Professor Nicholas Cronk (The Voltaire Foundation, University of Oxford) - Voltaire's Career as a Scientist [VIDEO]

12.20 pm Professor Robert Iliffe (University of Sussex) - The Role of Newtonian Science in the French Enlightenment [VIDEO]


AFTERNOON CHAIR: Dr Julian Barbour (University of Oxford)

2,15 pm Professor Sarah Hutton (University of St Andrews) - Émilie du Châtelet's Newton [VIDEO]

3.05 pm Dr Anne-Lise Rey (Université Lille I) - Émilie du Châtelet's Institutions de Physique : a Leibnizian-Newtonian Synthesis? [VIDEO]


4.30 pm SUMMARY OF THE DAY'S PROCEEDINGS - Professor Robert Iliffe (University of Sussex) [VIDEO]

There will be a conference dinner at St Cross in the evening following the end of the conference with an after-dinner talk by David Bodanis (author of Passionate Minds: The Great Enlightenment Love Affair).