From The Writer’s Almanac:
Today is the birthday of French philosopher and writer Denis Diderot (books by this author), born in Langres (1713). He was a prominent thinker during the French Enlightenment, and he was good friends with Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The two men met regularly at cafés in Paris to discuss music, philosophy, and their troubles with women.
From 1745 to 1772, Diderot was the chief editor of Encyclopédie, a book meant to replace the Bible as the source of knowledge. It was the first book of its kind to subject all the entries to rational analysis, debunking a lot of ancient wisdom along the way. For instance, it included an entry on Noah’s ark that tried to estimate how many man-hours Noah and his sons must have spent shoveling manure off their boat. Previous encyclopedias restricted themselves to serious topics like theology and philosophy and science, but Diderot tried to cover everything he could think of: emotions, coal mines, fleas, duels, bladder surgery, stockings, the metaphysics of the human soul, and how to make soup.
Diderot, who said, “Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”
Forthcoming from Korrektiv Press: The Korrektiv Encyclopedia, in the spirit of Diderot, but Diderot turned on his head.