French philosopher and writer Denis Diderot

A prominent figure of the Enlightenment, philosopher and writer Denis Diderot was born in Langres, France, on 5 October 1713.

Denis Diderot

After receiving his degree in philosophy and briefly studying law, he decided to become a writer. Because of his refusal to enter one of the learnt professions, Diderot was disowned by his father.

In 1745, Diderot accepted a job offer that would result in producing one of the greatest works of the Enlightenment – Encyclopédie.

Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers
Originally he was hired by the Parisian book publisher André Le Breton to translate Ephraim Chambers’ Cyclopaedia into French after two other translators had withdrawn from the project. Together with the distinguished mathematician and philosopher Jean Le Rond d’Alembert as his co-editor, Diderot completely changed the nature of the publication. Instead of merely translating the book, Diderot turned it into a hub for revolutionary ideas. He collected contributions of leading intellectuals, such as Voltaire and Rousseau, “to change the way people think”.

His other renowned works include Le Neveu de Rameau (Rameau’s Nephew) and Le Fils Naturel (The Natural Son).  You can also see complete works by Diderot on Europeana.

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