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Francois Marie Arouet De Voltaire French Writer And Philosopher

Updated on October 18, 2009
Statue of Voltaire
Statue of Voltaire
Voltaire was once on the 10 Franc Note
Voltaire was once on the 10 Franc Note

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Francois Marie Arouet de VOLTAIRE French writer and philosopher


Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire French writer and philosopher of the Enlightenment, Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire promoted the ideas of civil and religious liberty that helped to inspire both the American and French revolutions.

Following a classical education he disregarded his father’s wishes and pursued a literary and philosophical career in Paris. In 1725 he moved to England where he began to formulate his own beliefs. These beliefs centered on the principles of freedom of thought, respect for others, and that writers should produce works concerned with the social and political issues of the day. He returned to France in 1729 and became the lover of Gabrielle Emilie de Breteuil. Together they spent the next 20 years studying science and Newtonian physics.

Gabrielle died in 1749 and Voltaire traveled to Prussia, leaving there in 1753. He then moved to Switzerland, near the French border, where he continued writing philosophical and dramatic works, including his literary masterpiece “Candide.” He also established a scientific workshop and, remaining true to his ideals, set up a refuge for Protestants.

NOVEMBER 21, 1694

Born Francois Marie Arouet, to Francois Arouet, a lawyer, and his wife, Marie Marguerite Daumart.

1703 12 Following the death of his mother, is educated at Jesuit College in Paris.

1713 Defies his father’s wishes and chooses a career in literature. Dispatched by his father to work in the French Embassy at the Hague.

1715 – 17 Writes lampoons of the duke of Orleans, regent for Louis XV, and is imprisoned in the Bastille for a year.

1718 Changes name to Voltaire. Adapts the ancient play “Oedipus,” which is performed on the stage in Paris.

1725 Feuds with the chevalier de Rohan and is imprisoned for a short time. Flees to England upon release.

1726 – 29 In England, formalizes ideas on personal liberty.

1729 – 30 Returns to France. Begins affair with Gabrielle Emilie de Breteuil, the marquise du Chatelet. (She was the first French translator of the work of Isaac Newton.)

1731 – 32 Writes “History of Charles XII” and the play “Zaire.”

1740’S Employed as court historiographer for Louis XV. Appointed “Gentleman of the King’s Bedchamber.”

SEPTEMBER 1749 Gabrielle Emilie de Breteuil dies.

1750 – 53 Resides as a special guest at the Prussian court of Frederick II (the Great). Leaves after quarreling with the king.

1751 Writes the historical work “Age of Louis XIV.”

1754 – 70’S Settles near Geneva. Starts a colony exploring a range of pursuits, from farming to watchmaking, and provides refuge for persecuted French Protestants.

1759 – 64 Writes satirical novels, including “Candide,” as well as the “Philosophical Dictionary.”

MAY 1778 Visits Paris and receives a rapturous welcome. Meets numerous dignitaries including Benjamin Franklin. Overwhelmed by the visit, he dies on May 30.

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