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The Age of Voltaire (The Story of Civilization vol 9) by Will and Ariel Durant

Originally published in 1935 by a husband and wife writing team. This is one of eleven other books in the Story of Civilization series; which covers western history. There are definitely a few other books in the set I’m going to have to read now.

It was actually pretty good. It’s kinda hard to follow at times due to it being so comprehensive and detailed. One thing I’ve come to learn is some of the most important scientific discoveries and inventions took place during the age of Voltaire.

It was about forty-five hours in length (probably the longest book I’ve ever listened to). It took me five days to finish. I am pretty picky about books that are even thirty hours in duration. It has to be a very interesting topic to put that many hours in. You have to be dedicated. If you start a book you have to finish it, right?

A few things I learned:

  1. The word oxygen means “acid generator” in Greek. At the time it was mistakenly thought that all acids included oxygen in their composition. It was named by Antoine Lavoisier. Note: he was guillotined at the height of the French Revolution.
  2. Other notable enlightenment thinkers worth looking into: Frances Bacon, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith, Carl Linnaeus, Emmanuel Kant and Rene Descartes.
  3. Like most enlightenment thinkers Voltaire was a deist . He had a low opinion of the Abrahamic religions. Tolerance was his philosophy and is quoted as saying “are we not all children of the same father and creatures of the same God.”
  4. The attitude of the enlightenment was “Sapere aude.” Which is Latin for “dare to know.” Sound familiar?
  5. Some prominent inventions of the era: piano (Bartolomeo Cristofori), marine chronometer (John Harrison), steam engine (James Watt), flush toilet (Alexander Cumming), bi-focal glasses (Ben Franklin), vaccination (Edward Jenner) and the first battery (Alessandro Volta).
  6. John Locke is often credited with proposing the separation of church and state. This  thought was influential on Thomas Jefferson and the bill of rights.

pic: thank you


All warfare is based on deception.

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