Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Book Review - "Passionate Minds" by David Bodanis

It was an educational read about Voltaire and Emilie du Chatelet, two French intellectuals who had a great impact on the French Enlightenment. Specifically, through their combined efforts, they enhanced understanding of Issac Newton’s optical and gravitational theories, as well as inspired critical thinking about philosophy and religion. I had previously read Candide by Voltaire and had always wanted to read more about his life. This book satisfied a great part of that curiosity. I had not previously heard of Emilie du Chatelet, and was glad to have learned such a lot about her contribution to the sciences and philosophy.

Apart from giving information about their intellectual influence on French society, the book also offered an intimate glimpse into the personal lives and love affair of these two distinguished individuals, and how they inspired each other to live up to their respective ideals.

The background is packed with historical details relating to social mores, French court politics, class distinction, religious dogma, discrimination against women and press censorship in pre-Revolution France.

This was a solid 4-star read for me.

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