Fontenelle, Bernard le Bovier de

Fontenelle, Bernard le Bovier de

(bĕrnär` lə bōvyā` də fôNtənĕl), 1657–1757, French writer; nephew of Corneille. His forte was the interpretation of science. His works include Dialogues des morts (1683), observations on man; Histoire des oracles (1687), attacking superstition; L'Origine des fables (1724), on the origin of religions; and Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes (1686), an exposition of the Copernican system. As secretary (1699–1741) of the Académie royale des Sciences, Fontenelle paved the way for the ideas of the Enlightenment.


See The Achievement of Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle (selected works, tr. and introd. by L. M. Marsak, 1970).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Fontenelle, Bernard le Bovier de


Born Feb. 11, 1657, in Rouen; died Jan. 9, 1757, in Paris. French writer and popularizer of science. Member of the Académie Franchise (1691).

Fontenelle was a prolific versifier and the author of opera librettos, pastorals, and polite verse. His Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds (1686) sets forth, in simple and elegant fashion, the Copernican system and complex questions of astronomy. Fontenelle was involved in the debate over the ancients and moderns, in which, with C. Perrault, he asserted the superiority of modern authors over their classical counterparts; he treated the subject in Digressions on the Ancients and the Moderns (1688). His History of Oracles (1687) is a reasoned critique of superstition and fanaticism and establishes Fontenelle as a forerunner of the Enlightenment.


Istoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1946. Pages 579–80.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.