Historical Who is Who
1713 - 1784
Jesuit educated, avoiding any established professional career, for ten years he earned a living from part-time teaching, translating and clerking for a book-seller. Subsequently, he began reflective writings, but they were banned as politically contentious. With D’Alembert he took on the editorial role – strategic mapping, author commissioning, and organisational management – of what over a 20 year period became the massive Encyclopaedia (17 volumes of text and 11 volumes of plates). Within this, and in his own independent writings (eg on blindness and slavery), he challenged social convention and ecclesiastical authority.He lived in a condition of financial uncertainty – in part because of the political sensitivity of some of the views expressed. This was one of the reasons he agreed to bring and sell his library, and spend six months at the court of Catherine the Great in St Petersburg.