WAECHTER, G.C.: France, 1770, Bronze, 59 mm
Obv: Bust (r) within a wreathed border VOLTAIRE NÉ XX. FEVRIER M.DC.XCIV.
Rev: Emblems of Art and Science on an Altar with Inscription: TIRÉ D’APRÈS NATURE AU CHATEÂU DE FERNEY. G.C. WÆCHTER
Signed: G.C. WÆCHTER F.
Ref: Slg. Wilmersdoeffer 306; Wurzbach 9185; Molinari 91/347

François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694-1778) was a French philosopher, historian, dramatist, poet, writer, and satirist. He is remembered primarily as a crusader against tyranny and bigotry and is considered the embodiment of the 18th-century Enlightenment.

Voltaire was born in Paris into a middle-class family. He was educated by the Jesuits at the Collège Louis-le-Grand (1704-11) and worked as a secretary to the French ambassador in Holland. From the beginning, Voltaire had troubles with the authorities, but he energetically attacked the government and the Catholic church. These activities led to numerous imprisonments and exiles. In his early twenties he spent eleven months in the Bastille for writing satiric verses about the aristocracy. Voltaire did not support the dogmatic theology of institutional religions. He dismissed the doctrines about the Trinity or the Incarnation as nonsense. As a humanist, he advocated religious and social tolerance, though in his later years Voltaire produced several anti-religious writings. In 1716 Voltaire was arrested and exiled from Paris, and later was imprisoned in the Bastille for lampoons of the Regency. During his stay at the Bastille, Voltaire was visited by a flow of admirers. Between 1726 and 1729 he lived in exile mainly in England. There he was strongly influenced by John Locke and Isaac Newton and wrote a classic biography of Charles XII. He also wrote plays, poetry, historical and scientific treatises and became the royal historiographer. His best known work was the philosophical romance Candide, which in 1957 Leonard Bernstein made into a highly successful musical comedy.

Voltaire died in Paris in 1778 as the undisputed leader of the Age of Enlightenment, and at the time of his death at eighty-four he left behind him over fourteen thousand known letters and over two thousand books and pamphlets.