Denis Diderot Biography
(French Philosopher, Co-Founder and Chief Editor of the ‘Encyclopédie’)
Birthday: October 5, 1713 (Libra)
Born In: Langres, France
Denis Diderot was a French philosopher, writer, encyclopaedist, and art critic. He was a well-known figure of the Age of Enlightenment and was most noted for co-founding, editing, and contributing to a general encyclopaedia published in France called the ‘Encyclopédie.’ He co-created it with Jean le Rond d'Alembert. According to Diderot, the objective of the ‘Encyclopédie’ was to change the way people thought, apart from catering to their needs of knowing things and informing themselves. Contributors of the encyclopaedia, which was the first to elucidate mechanical arts, supported secularization of learning, away from the Jesuits. Some articles of the ‘Encyclopédie’ expressed reservations on biblical miracles. This not only drew controversy but also infuriated the ‘Catholic Church’ and the French government, resulting in a ban on the project. Controversies led many of the contributors to leave the project, while some were jailed. d'Alembert also left it, and with this, Diderot became its sole editor. He emerged as the main contributor of ‘Encyclopédie,’ which is regarded a forerunner of the French Revolution. Other notable literary works of Diderot were ‘The Indiscreet Jewels,’ ‘Paradox of the Actor,’ and ‘Rameau's Nephew.’ He received financial aid from Empress Catherine II of Russia, served as her librarian, and also stayed in her court in Saint Petersburg for a while after the empress heard of his financial struggle.