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...