18th Century Philosophers

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Find out more about the greatest 18th Century Philosophers, including Immanuel Kant, Voltaire, Adam Smith, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Olympe de Gouges.
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 1 
Immanuel Kant
(One of the Greatest Philosophers of All Time)
Immanuel Kant
17
Birthdate: April 22, 1724
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Königsberg, Germany
Died: February 12, 1804

Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher whose works in fields like aesthetics and metaphysics have made him an important and influential personality in Western philosophy. His views continue to influence contemporary philosophy. Kant has had a major influence on prominent philosophers like Hegel, Schelling, Reinhold, and Fichte. Kant's work on mathematics is cited by Albert Einstein as an early influence.

 2 
Voltaire
(French Historian and Philosopher Known for His Wit and His Pointed Social Critique)
Voltaire
22
Birthdate: November 21, 1694
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 30, 1778
18th-century historian, author, philosopher, and advocate of freedom of speech Voltaire was a leading figure of the French Age of Enlightenment. He often ran into trouble for his criticism of the French nobility and the Roman Catholic Church. He once went to Britain on voluntary exile, fearing imprisonment in France.
 3 
John Locke
(English Philosopher and Physician, Popularly Known as the ‘Father of Liberalism’)
John Locke
23
Birthdate: August 29, 1632
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Wrington, Somerset, England
Died: October 28, 1704
John Locke, also known as The Father of Liberalism, was a prominent Enlightenment Age philosopher. A qualified physician, Locke postulated the theory of mind, empiricism, and the idea of tabula rasa. His ideas influenced the social contract theory, the works of Kant and Rousseau, and the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
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 4 
Adam Smith
(18th Century Scottish Economist Who is Considered the Father of Modern Economics)
Adam Smith
17
Birthdate: June 5, 1723
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland
Died: July 17, 1790

Widely considered The Father of Economics, Adam Smith was a Scottish philosopher and economist. A pioneer of political economy, Adam Smith played a major role during the Scottish Enlightenment. His book The Wealth of Nations is regarded as the first modern work of economics and a forerunner of today's academic discipline of economics.

 5 
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
(Philosopher, Writer, & Composer Whose Political Philosophy Influenced the Progress of the Age of Enlightenment)
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
11
Birthdate: June 28, 1712
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Geneva, Switzerland
Died: July 2, 1778

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, composer, and writer. His political philosophy influenced aspects of the French Revolution. He also helped develop modern economic, political, and educational thought. His writing inspired a transformation in French drama and poetry. His works also influenced such writers around the world as Tolstoy. His works as a composer were acknowledged by composers like Mozart.

 6 
David Hume
(Best Known for His Highly Influential System of Philosophical Empiricism, Scepticism and Naturalism)
David Hume
9
Birthdate: April 26, 1711
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: August 25, 1776

Scottish Enlightenment philosopher, historian, and economist, David Hume, is considered one of the most important philosophers to write in English. His book, A Treatise of Human Nature, is counted among the most influential works in the history of philosophy. His works have influenced numerous thinkers, including German philosopher Immanuel Kant and Christian philosopher Joseph Butler.

 7 
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
(One of the Most Important Figures in German Idealism)
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
13
Birthdate: August 27, 1770
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Stuttgart, Germany
Died: November 14, 1831
German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel worked on ideas such as absolute idealism; the philosophy of spirit, or Geist; and the master–slave dialectic. His views influenced later thinkers and intellectuals, such as Karl Popper and Karl Marx, with the latter using Hegel’s views on the civil society.
 8 
Montesquieu
(Political Philosopher Who Gave the Doctrine of 'Separation of Powers')
Montesquieu
5
Birthdate: January 18, 1689
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: La Brède, France
Died: February 10, 1755

French Enlightenment political philosopher, historian, judge, and man of letters Montesquieu remains the main source of the separation of powers system that is followed in many constitutions across the globe. His treatise The Spirit of the Laws on political theory greatly influenced work of many others, including drafting of the U.S. Constitution by the founding fathers of the United States.

 9 
Jeremy Bentham
(British Philosopher, Social Activist and One of the Founders of 'Modern Utilitarianism')
Jeremy Bentham
6
Birthdate: February 15, 1748
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: London, England, United Kingdom
Died: June 6, 1832
Philosopher and jurist Jeremy Bentham is remembered as the pioneer of modern utilitarianism. He believed in economic freedoms, women’s rights, animal rights, the separation of the church and the state, and freedom of expression. Bentham wished for his body to be dissected and then to be displayed as an auto-icon.
 10 
Denis Diderot
(French Philosopher, Co-Founder and Chief Editor of the ‘Encyclopédie’)
Denis Diderot
4
Birthdate: October 5, 1713
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Langres, France
Died: July 31, 1784

Denis Diderot revolutionized the Age of Enlightenment as the co-founder of Encyclopédie, which was banned for questioning religion. He had flirted with the idea of joining the theater and becoming a priest, and even studied law, but later devoted himself to languages, literature, and philosophy.

 11 
Edmund Burke
(Statesman)
Edmund Burke
5
Birthdate: January 12, 1729
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Dublin, Republic of Ireland
Died: July 9, 1797

Anglo-Irish statesman and philosopher, Edmund Burke, was a member of parliament (MP) in the House of Commons of Great Britain for several years. He supported  Catholic emancipation and strongly opposed the French Revolution. He felt revolution destroyed the fabric of good society and traditional institutions of state and society. He is considered the philosophical founder of modern conservatism. 

 12 
George Berkeley
(philosopher)
George Berkeley
5
Birthdate: March 12, 1685
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: County Kilkenny, Ireland
Died: January 14, 1753

George Berkeley was an Anglo-Irish philosopher who is credited with popularizing a theory called immaterialism, which claims that material substance like tables and chairs can't exist without being perceived by the mind. Berkeley influenced several philosophers like David Hume. Also remembered for his humanitarian work, George Berkeley worked towards creating homes for abandoned children in London.

 13 
Gottfried W. Leibniz
(German Mathematician Who Developed the Present Day Notation for the Differential and Integral Calculus)
Gottfried W. Leibniz
4
Birthdate: July 1, 1646
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Leipzig, Germany
Died: November 14, 1716
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a significant logician, mathematician, and philosopher of the Enlightenment era. He laid down his own concepts of differential and integral calculus. He was behind the invention of the mass-produced mechanical calculator and modified the binary number system. He also laid down a separate library cataloging system.
 14 
Mary Wollstonecraft
7
Birthdate: April 27, 1759
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, England
Died: September 10, 1797

Mary Wollstonecraft was an English writer, advocate of women's rights, and philosopher. Wollstonecraft, who attracted a lot of attention for her unconventional personal relationships, is widely considered a founding feminist philosopher. Although her unorthodoxy initially attracted criticisms, her advocacy of women's equality became increasingly important during the 20th century. Modern-day feminists cite her works and her life as important influences.

 15 
Samuel Adams
(American Political Philosopher and 4th Governor of Massachusetts (1794–1797))
Samuel Adams
4
Birthdate: September 27, 1722
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: October 2, 1803
Samuel Adams, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, also served as the governor of Massachusetts. Samuel formed the Boston Tea Party and also played a major role in drafting the Articles of Confederation and the Massachusetts Constitution. He was a second cousin of President John Adams.
 16 
Samuel Coleridge
5
Birthdate: October 21, 1772
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Ottery St Mary, Devon, Great Britain, United Kingdom
Died: July 25, 1834

Samuel Coleridge was an English poet, philosopher, theologian, and literary critic. He is credited with co-founding the Romantic Movement in England along with his friend William Wordsworth. Despite struggling from bouts of depression and anxiety throughout his adult life, Samuel Coleridge had a major influence on American transcendentalism and writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson.

 17 
Johann Gottfried Herder
(Philosopher, Theologian, Poet, and Literary Critic)
Johann Gottfried Herder
3
Birthdate: August 25, 1744
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Morąg, Poland
Died: December 18, 1803

German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder is best remembered as a significant figure of the Sturm und Drang literary movement. Born into poverty and largely self-educated till 17, he later became a disciple of Immanuel Kant and was associated with Enlightenment and Weimar Classicism. He was eventually ennobled.

 18 
Johann Gottlieb Fichte
(Former Philosopher who became a founding figure of the philosophical movement known as German idealism)
Johann Gottlieb Fichte
3
Birthdate: May 19, 1762
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Rammenau, Germany
Died: January 29, 1814
 19 
Jonathan Edwards
(Preacher, Theologian, Philosopher)
Jonathan Edwards
4
Birthdate: October 5, 1703
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: East Windsor, Connecticut, United States
Died: March 22, 1758

Jonathan Edwards was an American philosopher, revivalist preacher, and Congregationalist Protestant theologian. Considered one of America's most prominent and influential philosophical theologians, Jonathan Edwards played a major role in shaping the Evangelical Revival of the 1730s and 1740s. His theological work is credited with paving the way for a new school of theology called the New England theology.

 20 
Friedrich Schiller
(Playwright and Poet Known for His Works 'The Robbers', 'Don Carlos' and 'Mary Stuart')
Friedrich Schiller
4
Birthdate: November 10, 1759
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Marbach am Neckar, Germany
Died: May 9, 1805

Friedrich Schiller was a German poet, physician, philosopher, playwright, and historian. Schiller is best remembered for his friendship with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the two discussed issues concerning aesthetics. Schiller's discussions with Goethe paved the way for a period, which came to be known as Weimar Classicism. Friedrich Schiller is also widely regarded as Germany's most prominent classical playwright.

 21 
Raja Ram Mohan Roy
(Socio-religious Reformer)
Raja Ram Mohan Roy
12
Birthdate: May 22, 1772
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Radhanagore, West Bengal, India
Died: September 27, 1833

Raja Ram Mohan Roy was an Indian social and religious reformer. He is credited with co-founding the Brahmo Sabha, a social-religious reform movement. Often referred to as the Father of the Bengal Renaissance, Roy has had an influential role in fields like politics, education, and religion. In 2004, he was ranked 10th in BBC's Greatest Bengali of all time poll.

 22 
Joseph Priestley
(Discoverer of Oxygen)
Joseph Priestley
4
Birthdate: March 24, 1733
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Birstall, England
Died: February 6, 1804

Best remembered for his contribution to the chemistry of gases, Joseph Priestley was an English scientist, clergyman, political theorist and educator, who has been credited with discovering oxygen independently, publishing his findings before Carl Wilhelm could. A prolific writer, he has authored 150 works on various subjects including electricity. He also contributed immensely to the advancement of political and religious thoughts.

 23 
Ethan Allen
(Revolutionary War Hero)
Ethan Allen
4
Birthdate: January 21, 1738
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Litchfield, Connecticut, United States
Died: February 12, 1789

As a child, Ethan Allen was fond of deciphering passages from the Bible. He grew up to co-establish Vermont and led the Green Mountain Boys during the American Revolutionary War. After failing to achieve Vermont’s separation from New York, he tried to unite Vermont with Canada.

 24 
Adam Weishaupt
(German Philosopher and Founder of Enlightenment-Era Secret Society 'Illuminati')
Adam Weishaupt
4
Birthdate: February 6, 1748
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ingolstadt, Germany
Died: November 18, 1830
On a night in 1776, deep within a forest near Ingolstadt, German law professor Adam Weishaupt and four others formed a secret society known as the Illuminati, which was supposed to be a parallel to religion. Since then, many conspiracy theories have held the society responsible for unexplained global events. 
 25 
Swedenborg
(Swedish Christian Scientist, Philosopher and Theologian Best Known for His Book ‘Heaven and Hell’)
Swedenborg
4
Birthdate: January 29, 1688
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Stockholm, Sweden
Died: March 29, 1772

Emanuel Swedenborg was a Swedish pluralistic-Christian philosopher, mystic, theologian, and scientist. Swedenborg started hogging the limelight after writing a book on the afterlife titled Heaven and Hell, which released in 1758. A prolific scientist and inventor, Swedenborg experienced spiritual awakening after which he started working on reforming Christianity. He even claimed that he could converse with angels and demons.

 26 
Count of St. Germain
(European Adventurer and Philosopher)
Count of St. Germain
5
Birthdate: 1691 AD
Birthplace: Sárospatak, Hungary
Died: February 27, 1784

Known as The Wonderman, 18th-century French adventurer Comte de Saint-Germain was also a talented musician, especially skilled in the violin, and a well-known chemist. Not only was he proficient in almost all European languages, he had traveled to places such as Russia, the Dutch Republic, and Germany.

 27 
Émilie du Châtelet
3
Birthdate: December 17, 1706
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 10, 1749
 28 
Henry Cavendish
(English Scientist Who Discovered Hydrogen)
Henry Cavendish
3
Birthdate: October 10, 1731
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Nice, France
Died: February 24, 1810

English natural philosopher, scientist, and a prominent experimental and theoretical physicist and chemist Henry Cavendish is best-remembered for his discovery of hydrogen and his Cavendish experiment. He first recognized that hydrogen, which he termed inflammable air, is a discrete substance which produces water on combustion. He conducted the Cavendish experiment to measure and produce a value for Earth’s density.

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling
3
Birthdate: January 27, 1775
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Leonberg, Germany
Died: August 20, 1854
 30 
Thomas Paine
(Founding Father of the United States)
Thomas Paine
1
Birthdate: January 29, 1737
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Thetford, England
Died: June 8, 1809

English-born American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, Thomas Paine, is credited to have penned some of the most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution. His works inspired the common people of America and motivated them to fight for independence from British rule. He was ostracized for criticizing Christianity and died a lonely man.

 31 
Cesare Beccaria
(One of the Greatest Thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment Known for His Treatise 'On Crimes and Punishments')
Cesare Beccaria
3
Birthdate: March 15, 1738
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Milan, Italy
Died: November 28, 1794

Cesare Beccaria was an 18th-century Italian criminologist, philosopher, jurist, and politician. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment. He is still remembered for his treatise On Crimes and Punishments (1764), a pioneering work in the field of penology. He is considered the father of modern criminal law. 

 32 
Charles Fourier
(French Philosopher Who was One of the Founders of Utopian Socialism)
Charles Fourier
5
Birthdate: April 7, 1772
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Besançon, France
Died: October 10, 1837

French social theorist Charles Fourier is regarded as one of the pioneers of utopian socialism. Apart from advocating social reconstruction based on phalanges, or Fourierism, he is also credited with coining the term feminism with respect to women’s rights. The Social Destiny of Man remains one of his notable works.

 33 
Thomas Carlyle
(Philosopher)
Thomas Carlyle
4
Birthdate: December 4, 1795
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland
Died: February 5, 1881
Initially a math teacher, Thomas Carlyle later abandoned the profession when a sudden spiritual awakening led him to writing. His parents wanted him to become a clergy, but he ended up becoming one of the greatest Victorian essayists and authors ever, known for works such as Sartor Resartus.
 34 
Marquis de Condorcet
(French Philosopher and Mathematician)
Marquis de Condorcet
3
Birthdate: September 17, 1743
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Ribemont, France
Died: March 29, 1794

French mathematician and philosopher Marquis de Condorcet was a champion for liberal economy and women’s rights. He was a significant contributor of the Encyclopédie and was part of the Academy of Sciences. He is also remembered for his political activities in the wake of the French Revolution.

 35 
Novalis
(German Romantic Poet and Philosopher Known for His Poems ‘Hymns to the Night’ and ‘Spiritual Songs’)
Novalis
3
Birthdate: May 2, 1772
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Wiederstedt, Germany
Died: March 25, 1801

Poet and philosopher Friedrich Leopold, better known as Novalis, was a significant figure of German Romanticism. He narrated the loss of his 15-year-old fiancé to tuberculosis in his Hymns to the Night. He himself died of the disease a few years later. He was also well-versed in natural sciences.

 36 
Giambattista Vico
(Italian Philosopher Best Known for His 'Verum Factum' Principle)
Giambattista Vico
3
Birthdate: June 23, 1668
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Naples, Italy
Died: January 23, 1744

Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico is regarded as a pioneer of what is now known as cultural anthropology, or ethnology. He brought together history and the social sciences in his work Scienza nuova. A poor bookseller’s son, he studied by candlelight but grew up to be a major Counter-Enlightenment figure.

 37 
Wilhelm von Humboldt
(Philosopher, Diplomat)
Wilhelm von Humboldt
3
Birthdate: June 22, 1767
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Potsdam, Germany
Died: April 8, 1835
 38 
Germaine de Staël
(Philosopher)
Germaine de Staël
3
Birthdate: April 22, 1766
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: July 14, 1817

Germaine de Staël was a French political theorist and woman of letters. She is best remembered for her collaboration with the popular  Swiss-French political thinker Benjamin Constant. Germaine, who was way ahead of her time, is widely regarded as a precursor of feminism.

 39 
Moses Mendelssohn
(Philosopher)
Moses Mendelssohn
3
Birthdate: September 6, 1729
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Dessau, Dessau-Roßlau, Germany
Died: January 4, 1786
 40 
William Godwin
(Journalist)
William Godwin
3
Birthdate: March 3, 1756
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Wisbech
Died: April 7, 1836
 41 
Joseph de Maistre
(Philosopher Who Advocated Social Hierarchy & Monarchy in the Period Immediately Following the French Revolution)
Joseph de Maistre
3
Birthdate: April 1, 1753
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chambéry, France
Died: February 26, 1821

A qualified lawyer, Joseph de Maistre was also a skilled diplomat, moralist, and author. Part of the Savoy Senate, he was exiled in Switzerland after Napoleon’s invasion and later also served in Russia and an envoy of the Sardinian king. A staunch Roman Catholic, he was against liberal and scientific beliefs.

 42 
Jean Le Rond d’Alembert
(Mathematician, Philosopher)
Jean Le Rond d’Alembert
3
Birthdate: November 16, 1717
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: October 29, 1783

Jean le Rond d'Alembert was a French mathematician, physicist, philosopher, and music theorist. He is credited with coming up with d'Alembert's formula, a solution to the one-dimensional wave equation, which is named after him. His life and work inspired Andrew Crumey's 1996 novel, D'Alembert's Principle.

 43 
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
(German Writer, Dramatist, Art Critic and a Spokesperson of the Enlightenment Era)
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
3
Birthdate: January 22, 1729
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Kamenz, Germany
Died: February 15, 1781

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was a noted German dramatist, critic, and author, remembered especially for his contribution towards liberating German theatre from the influence of its classical and French counterpart. Known for such literary masterpieces like Miss Sara Sampson; Emilia Galotti; Minna von Barnhelm; Nathan the Wise; Laocoön; Hamburg Dramaturgy, he is now considered an outstanding representative of the Enlightenment era.

 44 
John Austin
(jurist, philosopher)
John Austin
3
Birthdate: March 3, 1790
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Suffolk
Died: December 1, 1859

English legal theorist John Austin, who aimed at transforming law into a true science, is considered by many as creator of the school of analytical jurisprudence. His book The Province of Jurisprudence Determined received significant attention posthumously, while his analytical approach to jurisprudence and theory of legal positivism also influenced American and British law following his death.

 45 
Maria Gaetana Agnesi
(First Woman to Write a Mathematics Handbook and the First Woman Appointed as a University Mathematics Professor)
Maria Gaetana Agnesi
3
Birthdate: May 16, 1718
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Milan, Italy
Died: January 9, 1799

Italian mathematician Maria Gaetana Agnesi, daughter of an affluent silk trader, was well-versed in a number of languages as a child. Most of her work was regarding algebra, calculus, and the Witch of Agnesi. She was also the first female academic to write a math book and to teach math.

 46 
James Mill
(Historian)
James Mill
3
Birthdate: April 6, 1773
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Angus, Scotland
Died: June 23, 1836

James Mill was a Scottish economist, historian, philosopher, and political theorist. Mill is credited with co-founding the Ricardian school of economics. He is also credited with writing The History of British India, which classifies Indian history into three parts: British, Muslim, and Hindu. The classification has played an influential role in the field of Indian historical studies.

 47 
Friedrich Schleiermacher
(German Theologian, Philosopher and an Early Leader in Liberal Christianity)
Friedrich Schleiermacher
3
Birthdate: November 21, 1768
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Wrocław, Poland
Died: February 12, 1834

Hailed as an early leader of liberal Christianity, Lutheran philosopher Friedrich Schleiermacher was also an eminent biblical scholar and theologian. Best remembered for his works on hermeneutics and theory of translation, he also had a great impact on the evolution of higher criticism and became known for his attempt to reconcile the criticisms of the Enlightenment with traditional Protestant Christianity.

 48 
William Paley
(Christian apologist, philosopher, and utilitarian)
William Paley
3
Birthdate: 1743
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Peterborough, England
Died: May 25, 1805
 49 
François Quesnay
(Former economist known for publishing the "Tableau économique" (Economic Table) in 1758)
François Quesnay
3
Birthdate: June 4, 1694
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Méré, France
Died: December 16, 1774

François Quesnay was a French economist and physician. He was a proponent of the Physiocratic school. He is best known for publishing the "Tableau économique" (Economic Table), in which he set forth the foundations of the ideas of the Physiocrats. He also wrote extensively on Chinese politics and society. He was married to a woman named Marianne Woodsen. 

 50 
Christian Wolff
(Philosopher)
Christian Wolff
3
Birthdate: January 24, 1679
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Wrocław, Poland
Died: April 9, 1754