Authors of the Encyclopédie

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Of the more than 140 contributors to the Encyclopédie, the Enlightenment philosopher Denis Diderot was the most prominent. A member of the French philosophe movement, Diderot did not specialize in any one subject; rather he published works on literature, mathematics, theology, and philosophy. This broad array of expertise, enhanced with input from his fellow Enlightenment philosophes, aided Diderot in developing the systematic organization of the Encyclopédie.

Diderot was assisted in compiling and editing the Encyclopédie by Jean-Baptiste le Rond d'Alembert, whose expertise was in mathematics, physics, mechanics, philosophy, and music theory. D’Alembert was a member of the French Académie des Sciences and was elected as one of the first foreign honorary members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1781. D’Alembert twice quit working on the Encyclopédie, once temporarily in 1758 soon after publishing a controversial article about the city of Geneva and again in 1759 after the Encyclopédie had its royal printing privilege revoked. 

Another noteworthy contributor to the Encyclopédie was the political philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, who is best known for his works Emile, or On Education and The Social Contract. Rousseau is considered one of the main contributors to the Encyclopédie, having written many of the entries in the sections concerning music and economy. Rousseau was also one of Diderot’s closest friends, until they had a falling out. 

While not one of the primary authors, one of the most recognizable contributors to the Encyclopédie was Voltaire, who wrote several entries on literature and vigorously defended Diderot in public.

Authors of the Encyclopédie