Voltaire, a great French literary figure, was a popularizer of the science of Newton. He is most famous for his novel Candide in which he makes fun of Leibniz who held that this is the best of all possible worlds.

Voltaire Time Line

1694 November 21, born in Paris to a wealthy family. As a child he is influenced by his mother's friends in the belles-letters and deism. Shows early ability to write verse.

1704 Sent to the College Louis-le-Grand, a Jesuit institution, where, in addition to a sound classical education, he was exposed to stage-plays in both Latin and French which may account for the interest he had in the stage throughout his life.

1711 He returns home and, desiring to devote himself to literature, struggles against his father's wish that he studies law. He gives in briefly but soon abandons study of law altogether.

1713 After falling in with a loose crowd, his father sends him to Holland. Upon his return to Paris he works briefly in a lawyer's office.

1714 His satirical poems get him in trouble and his father sends him away once more, this time to the marquis de Saint-Ange who lives in the country.

1715 Returns to Paris and is introduced to better relationships including the famous "court of Sceaux" a social circle headed by the duchesse du Maine.

1716 In May, having lampooned the regent Orleans, he is exiled to Tulle, then Sully.

1717 Returns to Paris but is accused of writing two libelous poems, which he probably did not write, and sentenced to the Bastille for eleven months where he begins Henriade.

1722 Began his adventures as a "secret diplomat" to Dubois.

1723 Publishes Henriade.

1726 Sent to the Bastille once more as a result of a quarrel with the chevalier de Rohan. Released two weeks later and exiled to England where, for the next three years, he learns English and watches many Shakespearean productions.

1729 Gains full privelege to return to Paris.

1732 Produces Zaire, one of his two best plays.

1733 Publishes Letters on the English Nation which gets him in trouble again as its criticism of the English was only a guise for the criticism of both the church and state of France. He flees to Lorraine where he spends the next fifteen years at the chateau of Cirey with his mistress Emile de Breteuil, marquise du Chatelet.

1735 Once more given liberty to return to Paris but he remained at Cirey only occasionally returning to Paris.

1745 Appointed Royal Historiographer of France.

1746 Elected to the French Academy.

1748 Publishes Zadig, a philosophical tale.

1751 Goes to Berlin to serve as philosopher-poet to Frederick the Great. Stays three years.

1752 Publishes The Age of Louis XIV and Micromegas.

1753 Leaves Berlin after a quarrel with Frederick over rights.

1754 Not being allowed into France, he lives in various towns on the border and finally moves to a Geneva chalet which he calls Les Delices. While in Geneva meets Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

1759 Publishes Candide, a satiric treatment of Leibniz' solution to the problem of evil in the Theodicy. Moves to Ferney, near Geneva but on French soil, where many celebrated European figures visits him. Already considered the greatest literary genius in France, he also devotes his literary efforts to social reform earning him the title of Europe's greatest champion of humanity.

1763 Publishes Treatise on Tolerance.

1764 Publishes Dictionnaire philosophique.

1778 Returns to Paris a hero. May 30, dies in his sleep.

Voltaire Time Line Sources

Internet Resources


Voltaire was a gifted writer who wrote extensively in drama, poetry, history, literary criticism, religion and philosophy. Below is a selected list of his important works relating to philosophy.