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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
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