François-Marie Arouet was born in 1694 in Paris, France. In
1718, he adopted his pen name, Voltaire. He established himself as one of the
leading writers and philosophers during his time using his wit and intelligence.
Being the youngest of five, he proved an early gift for language. He learned Latin
and Greek as an adolescent. Literary sophistication was heavily encouraged when
he was growing up, so it almost came naturally to him. He received an education
at Jesuit school, college le-Grand, where he was taught Italian, Spanish and
English leading him to become the promising writer he would soon become. Although
his Father wanted him to become a lawyer, Voltaire insisted on being a writer.
He even pretended to be working in Paris on being an assistant to a lawyer,
nonetheless spending a majority of that time writing satirical poetry.
Voltaire was an extravagant writer and wrote pieces in many
different literary forms. These forms include poetry, novels, essays, and even
plays. He believed in freedom of religion, freedom of expression, free trade,
and separation of church. He believed absolute monarchy would be good for
society. He encouraged people that fell victim to superstition and prejudice
due to his hatred for injustice. His largest work was the “Dictionnaire
philsosophique” which stands for Philosophical dictionary. It was published in
1764 and was composed of many articles contributed by him to the “Encyclopedie,
ou dictonnaire raisonne des sciences, des arts et des métiers” which was an
encyclopedia for the sciences and arts and crafts. (Johnson) The piece consisted
of criticisms of his enemies, the Bible, and the Roman Catholic Church.
Voltaire’s influence in shaping the new world and his
connection with Isaac Newton should have more significance than just notes in
books.. The connection between him and Newton began in 1727, by chance. He had
gone to Newtons funeral in England after avoiding a second imprisonment. In
1738, he published a “Elements of the Philosophy of Newton” which helped
popularize the theories and thoughts of Newton. This piece was also one of many
works between 1734 to 1739. Realizing he would never become a scientist of
distinction, which he wanted to, he stopped writing about science and turned
away from it. Aside from his writing, he was often fighting for the people. He
is remembered in France often for his fight for civil rights and often exposed
the hypocrisies of the Ancient Regime. The regime called for an unfair balance
of power and taxes as the commoners and middle class took the burden for most
of the taxing. His determination to obtain freedom for the people often led to
trouble for himself.
At age 84, he became seriously ill and died on June 1st,
1779. Following his death, his body left Paris and was quickly sent to the
Abbey of Scelliers in Champagne but the interference of the local bishop caused
it to be stalled by a few hours. (Rochefort) During the French Revolution, his
body was sent to the Patheon but when the coffin was open, it was empty because
some extremists emptied the coffin secretly.