Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle, French philosopher and writer, early 18th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Hand-coloured aquatint by Sergent Marceau, of Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle (1657-1757). Fontenelle was made secretary, and later president, to the Academie des Sciences (1699-1741) during which time he paved the way for the ideas of the Enlightenment. He specialised in the interpretation of science: his works include 'Dialogues des morts' (1683), observations on humanity; 'Histoire des oracles' (1687), which attacks superstition; 'L'Origine des fables' (1724), on the origin of religions; and 'Entretiens sur la pluralitE des mondes' (1686), on the Copernican system.