François-Marie Arouet, popularly known by his pen name — Voltaire, was a writer and philosopher born on November 21, 1694. The revolutionary thinker is widely known to have been a forerunner of the French Revolution. He was a necessary precursor in championing freedom of speech and freedom of religion. His ideas and his stance often resulted in controversial matters, but nevertheless, he became a well-known individual and remains so until this day.
November 21, 1694
May 30, 1778 (age 83)
François-Marie Arouet, popularly known by his pen name — Voltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer, philosopher, and historian born on November 21, 1694. He is a notable contributor to the Enlightenment era as a philosopher and writer. Voltaire was born in Paris, France to François Aroue, a lawyer, and Marie Marguerite Daumard. Voltaire was the youngest of five children. Considering his date of birth, Astrologers predict that Voltaire’s Zodiac sign is Scorpio.
Voltaire longed to be a writer. However, this was not his father’s desire for him — he wanted him to be a lawyer. The revolutionary thinker is widely known to have been a forerunner of the French Revolution. He was a necessary precursor in championing freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Arouet adopted the name, Voltaire, as his pen name in 1718 following his imprisonment in the Bastille. In November 1718, Voltaire’s first play, “Oedipus,” was performed, for which he first used his pen name in the literary work. In 1726, Voltaire was again imprisoned without trial in the Bastille for challenging Chevalier de Rohan to a duel. He feared prolonged imprisonment and so he requested exile in England. In 1759, Voltaire published “Candide, ou l’Optimisme” which continues to be his best-known work. Voltaire began to advocate for freedom of religion following the persecution of Jean Calas.
Voltaire did not have a family of his own. He had a series of affairs. He had an affair with Émilie du Châtelet who was married. The affair lasted for 16 years. Later, it was recorded that he had an affair with his own niece, Marie-Louise Mignot with whom they lived as a married couple. Voltaire technically died a bachelor and he never fathered any children. Voltaire passed on on May 30, 1778, aged 83 years. In 1791, the National Assembly of France recognized Voltaire as a forerunner of the French revolution.
Arouet adopts the name 'Voltaire' as his pen name.
Voltaire's play, "Oedipus," the first one using his pen name, Voltaire, is performed in November of that year.
His altercation with Chevalier de Rohan causes his imprisonment without trial in the Bastille.
The author publishes the book that continues to be his best-known work.
He begins to champion freedom of religion following the persecution of Jean Calas.
The National Assembly of France recognizes Voltaire as a precursor of the French Revolution.
Why We Love Voltaire
He has wit and intelligence
Voltaire's wit is admirable. He used words cleverly in his speech and writings.
His advocacy for freedom
Voltaire knew the importance of freedom — freedom of speech and freedom of religion. One of his famous quotes is "I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
He has tenacity
Voltaire probably understood that tenacity was a critical virtue in his era. He never gave up despite the opposition from the government. He was even imprisoned and exiled but he never gave up pushing his agenda through his advocacy and literary works.
5 Surprising Facts
He has a debatable pen name
The origin of his famous pen name, Voltaire, is largely debatable and scholars can only speculate on the origin behind the nom de plume.
Most of his famous works were banned
A substantial portion of his work was banned by the authorities for running against the French government, religion, and the justice system.
He supported Sir Isaac Newton's apple story
Although the two never met in person, Voltaire took part in popularizing Isaac Newton's account of the apple falling from a tree that formed the basis for the discovery of gravity.
He was a spy
Voltaire briefly worked as a spy for the French government.
He neither married nor fathered any children
Although there are a series of his affairs on record, Voltaire technically died a bachelor with no children.
Who inspired Voltaire?
He was influenced by Enlightenment philosophers like Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, John Locke, and even Shakespeare.
What are Voltaire's most important works?
Some of Voltaire’s most important works include “Candide,” “Lettres philosophiques,” and “Oedipus.”
What did Voltaire defend?
Voltaire was against absolutism and mainly fought for the freedom of the press and speech and for religious freedom.
Voltaire’s birthday dates