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Voltaire

French Author and Philosopher

1694 – 1778

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Voltaire was the nom de plume of Francois Marie Arouet (1694-1778).

One of the most famous French writers, his works embrace almost every

branch of literature–poetry, drama, romance, history, philosophy, and

science. The years between his birth and death overlapped those of

famous early scientists such as Sir Isaac Newton, Anton van

Leeuwenhoek, Edmund Halley, Joseph Priestly, and Benjamin Franklin;

Voltaire wrote SF at a time when the crucial scientific foundations for it

had scarcely been laid. He was eminently qualified; one of his own

projects was a translation of Newton’s Principia into French.

Alas, though some of Voltaire’s works contain elements of the bizarre

and the fantastic, few qualify as even borderline sci-fi. Yet

“Micromegas” (1752) is such a shining exception that for this single tale

Voltaire deserves credit for inventing the science fiction short story, and

possibly science fiction itself.

Voltaire’s writings brought him fame and fortune, but, like those of his

character Micromegas, also brought trouble. His advocacy of freedom of

speech and religion, along with attacks on the Church and the French

nobility, resulted in two prison terms in the Bastille and years of exile

from France. Yet Voltaire’s works eventually catalyzed the French

Revolution, and secured his lasting memory as a hero of all the free

world.


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