It was on this date, March 7, 1727, that French economist and contributor to the Encyclopédie André Morellet was born. After a Jesuit education, he kept all his life the title of the Abbé Morellet without religious conviction. According to the Grande Encyclopédie (1751-1772), a masterpiece of Enlightenment thought, Morellet “did more than any in spreading the views of the philosophers,” that is, spreading Deism. His writings – including a translation of Beccaria’s Treatise, a smart pamphlet in answer to Charles Palissot’s scurrilous play Les Philosophes (the reward for which was a short stay in the Bastille), a reply to Ferdinando Galiani’s Dialogues sur le commerce des blés (Dialogues on the commerce in wheat), and a French translation of On Crimes and Punishments – were published in 4 vols. in 1818, the year before his death. Because of his able and biting wit, his close friend Voltaire called him “L’Abbé Mords-les” (“Father Bite-them”). Morellet’s semi-satirical translation of the Directorium Inquisitorum of Spanish theologian Nicolás Eymerico (the 14th century Inquisitor General of Aragon) led to the cessation of some of the French Catholic Church’s more inquisitorial practices.
Next to Voltaire, André Morellet counted among his friends Denis Diderot, Jean le Rond D’Alembert and Benjamin Franklin. Two years after his death, on 12 January 1819, his valuable Memories on the 18th Century and the Revolution were published.
Alfred Nobel (1833) It was on this date, October 21, 1833, that Swedish chemist Alfred Bernhard Nobel was born in Stockholm. It is one of the ironies of his life that a man who made his fortune in the invention and manufacture of weapons of war – dynamite and other nitroglycerine derivatives – bequeathed among […]