Émilie du Châtelet (1706-1749)
Not only was du Châtelet a physicist, she was also a philosopher, mathematician, and author. du Châtelet focused on natural philosophy, particularly that of Newton, Leibniz and Christian Wolff. Her advanced abilities in physics and mathematics made her especially able to write capably about Newton's physics. She thus contributed to the shift in France away from an acceptance of Cartesian physics and toward the embrace of Newtonian physics.
du Châtelet was born into lesser nobility - her father was Louis Nicholas le Tonnelier de Breteuil. As a young girl, she was given academic lessons by private tutors and also lessons in fencing, riding, and gymnastics. She was encouraged by a family friend, M de Mézières, to also study mathematics. Despite not being allowed to discuss research topics, mathematics, or science in the cafés in Paris (because she was a woman), she persisted and even showed up in 1734 at the Café Gradot dressed as a man - not as an attempt to fool people, but to make a statement on what she believed was a ridiculous rule. She was then allowed to participate in discussions.
In 1738, du Châtelet submitted an essay to a competition at the Paris Academy of Sciences entitled "on the nature and propagation of fire." She was accepted as a member of the learned Republic of Letters. She bested the executive director of the Paris Academy of Sciences on the issue of the proper formula for kinetic energy, saw her writings on science translated into Italian and German, and was elected to the Bologna Academy of Science. Shortly before she passed away, she completed a translation of Newton's "Principia" and her own commentary on it, which was published posthumously in 1759 in its final form.