Women and Enlightenment Science

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the role played by women in Enlightenment science. During the eighteenth century the opportunities for women to gain a knowledge of science were minimal. Universities and other institutions devoted to research were the preserve of men. Yet many important contributions to the science of the Enlightenment were made by women. These ranged from major breakthroughs like those of the British astronomer Caroline Herschel, the first woman to discover a comet, to important translations of scientific literature such as Emilie du Chatelet’s French version of Newton’s Principia - and all social classes were involved, from the aristocratic amateur botanists to the women artisans who worked in London’s workshops manufacturing scientific instruments. The image above, of Emilie du Chatelet, is attributed to Maurice Quentin de La Tour.

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  • Patricia Fara 17 episodes
    Senior Tutor at Clare College, University of Cambridge
  • Karen O'Brien 16 episodes
    Professor of English at the University of Warwick
  • Judith Hawley 13 episodes
    Professor of 18th Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London

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Programme ID: b00vky4n

Episode page: bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00vky4n

Auto-category: 305.4 (Women’s history)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In 1762, one of the leading thinkers of the Enlightenment, the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote, the education of women should always be relative to that of men, to please, to be useful to us, to make us love and esteem them, to educate us when young, to take care of us when grown up, to advise and console us, to render our lives easy and agreeable.