Francois Marie Arouet (Voltaire): French Author and Philosopher 1694 - 1778 A.D.


Francois Marie Arouet (pen name Voltaire) was born on November 21, 1694 in Paris.
Voltaire\'s style, wit, intelligence and keen sense of justice made him one of
France\'s greatest writers and philosophers.

Young Francois Marie received an excellent education at a Jesuit school. He left
school at 16 and soon formed friendships with a group of sophisticated Parisian
aristocrats. Paris society sought his company for his cleverness, humor and
remarkable ability to write verse. In 1717 he was arrested for writing a series
of satirical verses ridiculing the French government, and was imprisoned in the
Bastille. During his eleven months in prison he wrote his first major play,
"Oedipe," which achieved great success in 1718. He adopted his pen name
"Voltaire" the same year.

In 1726 Voltaire insulted a powerful young nobleman and was given two options:
imprisonment or exile. He chose exile and from 1726 to 1729 lived in England.
While in England Voltaire was attracted to the philosophy of John Locke and
ideas of the great scientist Sir Isaac Newton. After his return to Paris he
wrote a book praising English customs and institutions. The book was thought to
criticize the French government and Voltaire was forced to flee Paris again.

In 1759 Voltaire purchased an estate called "Ferney" near the French-Swiss
border where he lived until just before of his death. Ferney soon became the
intellectual capitol of Europe. Throughout his years in exile Voltaire produced
a constant flow of books, plays, pamphlets, and letters. He was a voice of
reason, and an outspoken critic of religious intolerance and persecution.

Voltaire returned to a hero\'s welcome in Paris at age 83. The excitement of the
trip was too much for him and he died in Paris. Because of his criticism of the
church Voltaire was denied burial in church ground. He was finally buried at an
abbey in Champagne. In 1791 his remains were moved to a resting place at the
Pantheon in Paris.

In 1814 a group of "ultras" (right-wing religious) stole Voltaire\'s remains and
dumped them in a garbage heap. No one was the wiser for some 50 years. His
enormous sarcophagus (opposite Rousseau\'s) was checked and the remains were gone.
(see Orieux, Voltaire, vol. 2 pp. 382-4.) His heart, however, had been removed
from his body, and now lays in the Bibliotheque nationale in Paris. His brain
was also removed, but after a series of passings-on over 100 years, disappeared
after an auction.

Category: Philosophy