Denis Diderot was the most prominent of the French Encyclopedists. Like his famous contemporary Samuel Johnson, he is said to have been more effective. This complete set of five volumes of the Diderot Encyclopedia: The Complete Illustrations is bound in fine blue leather and fit tightly into a light blue. Diderot died in Paris six years after Voltaire and Rousseau, with whose names his is inextricably linked as a leader of the French Enlightenment.


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The known facts concerning the inorganic, the organic, plant, animal, and man, were like islands jutting out of a sea of ignorance.

Denis Diderot | Biography, Philosophy, & Facts |

As the waters receded through scientific investigation, the missing links would be discovered. But some day science will explain.


Biology and Evolution During Diderot's lifetime the biological sciences were in their infancy. The scope and profundity diderot s encyclopedia his insights are therefore all the more amazing.

When scientific facts failed him, he had recourse to hypotheses that he was convinced would some day be verified. It was in consideration of this conviction that he presented his mature diderot s encyclopedia as a dream, a dream that, with the passage of time, can truly be called prophetic.

The crucial problem that confronted Diderot was to account for the diderot s encyclopedia and behavior of the living individual. The coordinated behavior and continuous identity that characterize the organism seemed to transcend any possible organization of discrete material particles.

Denis Diderot |

It was difficult to see how merely contiguous material parts could form an organic whole capable of a unified and purposeful response to its environment. Traditionally, the existence of unique species and individuals was explained by recourse to supernatural design and diderot s encyclopedia essence.


Contemporary science offered Diderot a choice between preformation, a Lucretian theory accepted at times by La Mettrie, and diderot s encyclopedia, which explained organic formation in terms of juxtaposition and contiguity. Diderot rejected preformation, and in support of epigenesis he developed the concept of molecular combinations endowed with specialized functions and organic unity.

He pointed out that although the swarm consists simply of numerous separate individuals in physical contact, it does, as a whole, possess the characteristic of purposeful, unified behavior that is associated with the individual organism.

It is possible to mistake the swarm of thousands of bees for a single animal. The unity diderot s encyclopedia the organism is derived from the life of the whole, and Diderot thus affirmed the continuity of the kingdoms and refuted the metaphysical principle diderot s encyclopedia essences.

A half diderot s encyclopedia later the discovery of the organic cell and the principles of cell division confirmed his views. Diderot found support for his theories in the embryological ideas that he had gathered from his reading, especially of Albrecht von Haller 's Elements of Physiology, and from Dr.

Denis Diderot (1713—1784)

In the conversation with d'Alembert, which gives rise to the dream, Diderot attempts briefly to trace d'Alembert from the parental "germs. Diderot s encyclopedia all animistic hypotheses, he declares that this development "overthrows all the schools of theology; … from inert matter, organized in a certain way and impregnated with other inert matter, and given heat and motion, there results the faculty of sensation, diderot s encyclopedia, memory, consciousness, passion, and thought.

Diderot agreed with Bordeu "organs produce needs, and reciprocally, needs produce organs" on the Lamarckian principle of the inheritability of acquired characteristics.

Moreover, he diderot s encyclopedia stated his belief that the individual recapitulates the history of the race and that certain hereditary factors may crop up after many generations.

To explain how parental factors are inherited cells and genes were as yet unknownDiderot resorted to a hypothesis of organic development through a network or bundle of threads or fibers or filamentswhich strongly suggested the nervous system.

Any interference with the fibers produced abnormalities, or "monsters. The underlying philosophy was diderot s encyclopedia and a qualified faith in the progress of the human mind.

In Diderot published the Lettre sur les aveugles An Essay on Blindnessremarkable for its proposal to teach the blind to read through the sense of touch, along lines that Louis Braille was to follow in the 19th century, and for the presentation of the first step in his evolutionary theory of survival by superior adaptation.

He was deeply wounded, however, by the discovery in diderot s encyclopedia Le Breton had secretly removed compromising material from the corrected proof sheets of about 10 folio volumes. The censored passages, though of considerable interest, would not have made an appreciable difference on the impact of the work.


He was moreover an energetic general director and supervised the diderot s encyclopedia for 3, to 4, plates of exceptional quality, which are still prized by historians today.

From Diderot worked as a paralegal.

Diderot, Denis

When he gave up this post inhis father stopped making regular financial contributions. Diderot now lived four years on writing commissions, so he wrote sermons for clergymen and worked as a tutor for a rich financier, while learning English.

Diderot s encyclopedia young Diderot led the life of a bohemian.

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