Really can't resist telling people about this book. Passionate Minds is a history of the affair between Voltaire and Emilie Du Chatelet, the woman who corrected Newton's equation for gravity which was the basis of E=mc2. Yep, Newton got it wrong. His formula was m=v, not the correct m=v2, which was discovered and developed by Du Chatelet.
She was brilliant and an individual, therefore a true outcast in the mindless world of the female French aristocracy of Voltaire's time, had a mindless marriage... Then she met Voltaire. They had an affair which involved living together for years with the full knowledge of the Marquis, Emilie's husband. This is an incredible tale, and I refuse to spoil it for readers with detail, but if you know anything about Voltaire's life, it's an extraordinary revelation.
Voltaire is one of my all time favorite authors, and he more than lived up to my expectations in this book. Most amusing was his discovery of a woman who was his mental match. She was also his scientific equal, and they competed with each other in a science competition. Voltaire used his money freely, Emilie used a room and a prism, and they came in neck and neck in the science awards.
Bodanis does an excellent job of holding together an extremely complex story line. He's also the author of E=mc2, the story of the equation, so he's well qualified to write on this subject.
This is an incredibly human, often moving, true story. The ending is as stunning as the beginning, not bad for a historical novel. Recommended for those who know how not to put down a book.