"Voltaire himself might have invented the bicycle"

 

 Voltaire was the pen name of François-Marie Arouet (1694-1778), a prolific French writer.  He was a passionate advocate for the ideals of the Enlightenment, expressing his views in novels, plays and poetry as well as pamphlets and essays.  As a young man, he was thrown into the Bastille without receiving a trial, but secured exile to Great Britain as an alternative to imprisonment.  He was greatly influenced by his time abroad, especially in witnessing the workings of a constitutional monarchy, and was impressed by the works of Shakespeare and Sir Isaac Newton.  Throughout his life, he argued for civil liberties, the rights of the citizen and freedom of religion.  As a polemicist, he often had to move to different cities both at home and abroad to escape punishment, as there were strict laws at the time regarding what could be published or otherwise said publicly.  He was viewed as being a profound influence on the French Revolution which was soon to come; it was the National Assembly who had his remains moved to the Panthéon in Paris as a mark of respect.  His achievements in the art of historiography forever changed the way we write about the past, and through his criticism of religion, he gave us the phrase, "If God did not exist, we would have to invent him".  The French, quite rightly, revere him as a champion of justice, civil rights and equality.