Bernard de Fontenelle


Bernard de Fontenelle

Bernard Le Bovier, Sieur de Fontenelle, was born in Rouen, Normandy, on 11 February 1657. His father’s family were mostly lawyers and came originally from Alençon, about ninety miles south-west of Rouen. When his great-grandfather, Nicolas Le Bovier, married Madeleine de Pallue, the foster-sister of Jeanne III of Navarre, the whole family converted from Catholicism to Calvinism, but his son, Isaë, converted back to Catholicism, so Bernard’s father, François, and Bernard himself were born into the Catholic faith. Rouen, in any case, was an oasis of religious toleration in an age of bigotry.

1st Edition of Plurality of Worlds

After a rather unsuccessful start, his writing career took off. His Lettres Galantes du Chevalier d’Her… (The Chevalier d'Her...'s Letters of Gallantry) was well-received when it was published in 1683, as was his Nouveaux Dialogues de Morts (New Dialogues of the Dead) in the same year. However, it was his Entretiens sur la Pluralité des Monds (Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds), a charming introduction to astronomy for young ladies, published in 1686, which really made his name.

He was admitted to the Académie des Science and became their Permanent Secretary in 1691. In this capacity, he wrote the Histoire du renouvellement de l'Académie des Sciences and a great many obituaries of the Academy's members.

He died in 1757, just short of his one hundredth birthday.

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