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Fontenelle, Bernard le Bovyer de

Entry updated 29 September 2020. Tagged: Author.

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(1657-1757) French man of letters whose work pointed forward to the Age of Reason; nephew of the dramatist Pierre Corneille (1606-1684). He wrote much, and one of his most important books became a seminal influence on Proto SF: Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes habités (1686; exp 1687; trans Sir W D Knight as A Discourse on the Plurality of Worlds 1687; new trans Aphra Behn as A Discovery of New Worlds 1688; new trans J Glanvill as The Plurality of Worlds 1688) [for further details see Checklist below]. This is one of the earliest works ever written popularizing science, notably Astronomy, for the layman, which it does by wittily presenting its speculations – many about the possibility of Life on Other Worlds, and during which he was dismissive of any likelihood that Mars contained life – in the form of conversations after dinner between the author and a marquise, and by being published in French rather than Latin. That the book was translated at least three times into English within two years of original publication is a sign that his presentation fell on fertile ground. In 1697 Fontenelle became permanent secretary of the Académie des Sciences, a post he held for forty-four years. [PN/JC]

see also: Cosmology; France; Stars; Venus.

Bernard Le Bovyer de Fontenelle

born Rouen, France: 11 February 1657

died Paris: 9 January 1757

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