Voltaire
Biographical notes by Blake Wilfong

"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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