enlightenment

Carl Wilhelm Scheele and the Discovery of Oxygen

Carl Wilhelm Scheele and the Discovery of Oxygen

On December 19, 1742 (Gregorian Calendar), Swedish Pomeranian pharmaceutical chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele was born. Scheele is best known for his discovery of oxygen and other chemical elements. Early Years Carl Wilhelm Scheele was born in Stralsund, which was back then under the control of Sweden, but belongs to Germany on this day. During his childhood, friends of the family taught him reading prescriptions and equipped him with further chemical knowledge. At the…
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A great man whose only fault was being a woman – Émilie du Châtelet

A great man whose only fault was being a woman – Émilie du Châtelet

On December 17, 1706, French mathematician, physicist, and author Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, marquise du Châtelet was born. Her major achievement is considered to be her translation and commentary on Isaac Newton‘s work Principia Mathematica, which still is the standard French translation of Newton‘s work today. Philosopher and author Voltaire, one of her lovers, once declared in a letter to his friend King Frederick II of Prussia that du Châtelet…
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The Encyclopædia Britannica and the Spirit of Enlightenment

The Encyclopædia Britannica and the Spirit of Enlightenment

On December 6, 1768, the first volume of the first edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica was published in London as , ‘A Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, compiled upon a New Plan‘. The Britannica is the oldest English-language encyclopaedia still being produced today. The history of its 15 editions alone would be subject of an entire book. But although it might be the most popular encyclopaedia ever printed, it was not the…
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Georg Forster – Naturalist and Revolutionary

Georg Forster – Naturalist and Revolutionary

On November 27, 1754, German naturalist, ethnologist, travel writer, journalist, and revolutionary Georg Forster was born. At an early age, he accompanied his father on several scientific expeditions, including James Cook‘s second voyage to the Pacific.[3] His most famous work ‘A Voyage Round the World‘ is considered as the beginning of modern scientific travel literature, which also made him a member of the famous Royal Society. “Poor human race! What abysses have you…
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Henry Fielding – the Father of the English Novel

Henry Fielding – the Father of the English Novel

On October 8, 1754, famous English novelist, journalist and dramatist Henry Fielding passed away. He is best known for his rich earthy humour and satirical prowess, and as the author of the novel Tom Jones. Henry Fielding influenced the main tradition of the English novel through the eighteenth century and the nineteenth century. One of his major contribution to the English novel was a sense of structure to its development. With his…
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Moses Mendelssohn and the Jewish Enlightenment

Moses Mendelssohn and the Jewish Enlightenment

On September 6, 1729, German Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn was born, who inspired the Haskalah movement of Jewish Enlightenment in the 18th and 19th century. Haskalah was a movement among European Jews that advocated adopting enlightenment values, pressing for better integration into European society, and increasing education in secular studies, Hebrew language, and Jewish history. Moses Mendelssohn’s descendants include also the famous composer and pianist Felix Mendelssohn.[4] “The state gives orders and coerces, religion…
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Alessandro Cagliostro – Imposter and Adventurer

Alessandro Cagliostro – Imposter and Adventurer

On August 26, 1795, Italian physician, occultist and adventurer Giuseppe Balsamo aka Count Alessandro di Cagliostro passed away. The history and stories around Cagliostro are shrouded in rumour, propaganda, and mysticism. Some effort was expended to ascertain his true identity when he was arrested because of possible participation in the Affair of the Diamond Necklace.[4] “Appearance determines consciousness.” – Alesandro di Cagliostro, aka Giuseppe Balsamo Becoming the Count of Cagliostro Cagliostro was…
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Georg Christoph Lichtenberg – Master of Aphorism

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg – Master of Aphorism

On July 1, 1742, German scientist, satirist and Anglophile Georg Christoph Lichtenberg was born. He is remembered best for his posthumously published notebooks, which he himself called Sudelbücher, a description modeled on the English bookkeeping term “scrapbooks”, and his aphorisms. A book is a mirror: if an ape looks into it an apostle is hardly likely to look out. We have no words for speaking of wisdom to the stupid. He who understands…
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Adam Smith and the Wealth of Nations

Adam Smith and the Wealth of Nations

On June 16, 1723 (June 5 according to the old Julian calendar), Scottish moral philosopher and a pioneer of political economy Adam Smith was born. He is one of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment and is best known for two classic works: The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) “Among civilized and thriving nations, on the contrary,…
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Giacomo Casanova and his Underestimated Literary Legacy

Giacomo Casanova and his Underestimated Literary Legacy

On June 4, 1798, Italian adventurer and author Giacomo Girolamo Casanova passed away. Although being famous or almost notorious because of his frequent and elaborate love affairs, he also is considered to be a brilliant author. His autobiography ‘Histoire de ma vie‘ (The Story of my Life), is regarded as one of the most authentic sources of the customs and norms of European social life during the 18th century. Being associated with European…
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