Francois-Marie Arouet (b.1694), a/k/a Voltaire, the most famous of all pen names, was the most brilliant and versatile writer in 18th century France—and, in all Europe. He was the single central figure identified with what is called The Age of Enlightenment, a period from about 1740 to 1789 when many thoughtful Europeans believed they had at last emerged from medievalism into an age of progress—enlightenment.

He was perhaps the most prolific writer in all history, penning multiple millions of words. While often difficult to categorize his writings, they include plays (Cedipe, 1717), epic poems (The Maid of Orleans, 1730), histories (The Age of Louis XIV, 1751), novels (Candide, 1759), and, philosophical works (Dictionnaire Philosophique, 1764). He even wrote the first book in French explaining Newton’s theory of the physical universe, making it understandable to the reading public (The Elements of Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophy, 1738).