Famous People of the Eighteenth-Century. Biography

Famous People of the Eighteenth-Century. Biography

The Eighteenth Century (1701-1800) was a period marked by significant progress in science, commerce and trade. It was also a century of political upheaval with the new political ideas of the Enlightenment culminating in the American and French Revolutions. In the second half of the Eighteenth Century, we see the first signs of the Industrial Revolution, with the emergence of steam power and increased mechanisation of farming and manufacturing.

In religious matters, established Churches faced increased scrutiny from reason, philosophy and new scientific ideas which challenged old orthodoxies. Towards the end of the Eighteenth-Century, we also witness the emergence of the Romantic Movement – expressed through the Romantic poets, artists and classical composers.

Political leaders

louis-XIV Louis XIV (1638 – 1715) ‘The Sun King’ – Louis XIV was King of France from 1643 until his death 72 years later. He is the longest serving monarch in European history. His strong rule established the over-riding pre-eminence of the Monarchy in France.

Peter-the-great Peter the Great (1672 – 1725) Tsar of all Russia (1682 – 1721) and Emperor of All Russia (1721-1735). Through successful wars, Peter the Great, expanded the Russian empire and shaped modern Russia. He also implemented elements of the social and cultural changes of the European enlightenment and founded many Russian government institutions.

catherine-great Catherine the Great (1729–1796) One of the greatest political leaders of the Eighteenth Century. Catherine the Great was said to have played an important role in improving the welfare of Russian serfs. She placed great emphasis on the arts and helped to cement Russia as one of the dominant countries in Europe.

George Washington (1732 – 1799) Leader of American forces during the War of Independence. A skilled military leader who won the war despite losing individual battles.

John Adams (1735 – 1826) A Founding Father and the second US President. Adams played an important role in encouraging Congress to declare Independence. He assisted Thomas Jefferson in writing the Declaration of Independence and helped to pass the Declaration through Congress.

Toussaint Louverture (1743 – 1803) Leader of the Haitian slave revolt. In 1791, he led the successful military revolt in Saint-Domingue and over the next years consolidated his power and influence restoring the plantation system with paid labour. Louverture enabled the colony to end slavery and in 1804 declared itself the independent Republic of Haiti.

King_George_III_ King George III (1760-1820) Under George III, the British lost the American colonies in the American War of Independence. George III also presided over an extended war with Napoleon’s Revolutionary France. Towards the end of his reign, he experienced periods of mental instability.

maria_theresaMaria Theresa (1740–1780) The only female ruler of the Habsburg Empire. Maria Theresa succeeded to the throne after the death of her father Charles VI. With great strength of will, Maria held together the disparate empire and instituted military, financial and education reforms which strengthened the international position of the Habsburg Empire.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was an American Founding Father and the principal author of The Declaration of Independence (1776) In this declaration, Jefferson laid out the fundamental principles of America, calling for equality and liberty. He also advocated ending slavery and promoting religious tolerance.

louis Louis XVI (1754 – 1793) King of France and Navarre from 1774 until executed during the French Revolution of 1791. He attempted to reform French society to make the rich pay high taxes. But, he was vetoed by other aristocrats and became unable to end the deep division in French society.

royalty Marie Antoinette (1755 – 1793) Wife of King Louis XVI. Marie Antoinette is often held up as a symbol of Royal decadence and profligacy, which sparked the French revolution. Whether fair or not, she was executed in 1793 for treason and holding principles in opposition to the French revolution.

Marquis_de_Lafayette Marquis de Lafayette (1757 – 1834) French military officer who fought in the Wars of Independence. Lafayette was a friend of Washington, Jefferson and Hamilton. Believing in the virtue of the American Revolution, he sought to encourage French participation in the war.

Maximilien Robespierre (1758 – 1794) Robespierre was one of the foremost figures of the French revolution. He passionately believed in the revolution to overthrow the monarchy and ruling classes. In the ‘reign of terror,’ he was ruthless in his attempt to execute any who might oppose the revolution.

King_George_III_ King George III (1760-1820) Under George III, the British lost the American colonies in the American War of Independence. George III also presided over an extended war with Napoleon’s Revolutionary France. Towards the end of his reign, he experienced periods of mental instability.


Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1726) Newton made studies in mathematics, optics, physics, and astronomy. In his Principia Mathematica, published in 1687, he laid the foundations for classical mechanics, explaining the Law of Gravity and the Laws of Motion.

James Watt (1736 – 1819) Scottish engineer. Watt improved the Newcomen steam engine creating an efficient steam engine, which was essential for the industrial revolution.

Antoine_lavoisier Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier (1743 – 1794) French Chemist and Nobleman. Considered the ‘Father of Chemistry’ Lavoisier discovered hydrogen and Oxygen. He also made the first comprehensive list of Table of elements. He was guillotined shortly after the French Revolution.


writer Voltaire (1694 – 1778) – French philosopher and critic. Best known for his work Candide (1762) which epitomises his satire and criticisms of social convention. Voltaire was instrumental in promoting Republican ideas due to his criticism of the absolute monarchy of France.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) One of the American Founding Fathers of the United States. He was an author, politician, diplomat, scientist and statesman. He was a key figure in the American Enlightenment, which saw major breakthroughs in science and ideas of political republicanism. Franklin was an early supporter of colonial unity and the United States.

writerJean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) Rousseau was a political philosopher widely known for his ‘Social Contract‘ (1762), which sought to promote a more egalitarian form of government by consent and formed the basis of modern republicanism. His ideas were influential in the French and American revolutions.

writerAdam Smith (1723-1790) was a Scottish social philosopher and pioneer of classical economics. He is best known for his work ‘The Wealth of Nations‘ which laid down a framework for the basis of classical free market economics. This helped to provide an intellectual case for free trade rather than ‘mercantilism.’ Smith is often referred to as the ‘Father of Economics.’

writerImmanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) Immanuel Kant was an influential German philosopher whose ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ sought to unite reason with experience and move philosophy on from the debate between rationalists and empiricists.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) English-American writer and political activist. In 1776, he wrote the best-selling pamphlet Common Sense. This advocated America seeking independence from Great Britain and was influential in shaping public opinion behind American Independence.

Authors and poets

jonathan-swiftJonathan Swift (1667 – 1745) Anglo-Irish writer born in Dublin. Swift was a prominent satirist, essayist and author. Notable works include Gulliver’s Travels (1726), A Modest Proposal and A Tale of a Tub.

willy-brandtJohann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832) German poet, playwright, and author. Notable works of Goethe include; Faust, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship and Elective Affinities.

Blake William Blake (1757 – 1827) English poet, painter and printmaker. Blake is considered an early romantic poet and painter, but with his very own unique style of drawings.

poet Robert Burns (1759 – 1796) Scottish romantic poet who was influential in the development of romantic poetry. He wrote in both English and Scottish and also contributed to radical politics.

mary-wollstonecraft Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797) English author, Wollstonecraft wrote the most significant book in the early feminist movement. Her pamphlet “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” made a case for extending human and political rights to women. She was a pioneer in the struggle for female suffrage.

jane-austen Jane Austen (1775–1817) Jane Austen wrote several novels, which remain highly popular today. These include Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Northanger Abbey. The novels reflect the lives and struggles of women in Eighteenth-Century England. Jane Austen was a pioneering female author.


j.s.bach Bach (1685 – 1750) German composer of the Baroque period. One of the most prolific composers of all time. Bach brought Baroque music to its pinnacle of musical maturity.

George_Frideric_Handel George Frederick Handel (1685 – 1759) German-born composer who spent a lot of time in England. He wrote operas and oratorios. Famous works include Messiah “Hallelujah chorus.”

Joseph_Haydn Joseph Haydn (1732 – 1809) Prolific Austrian composer of the classical period. He helped develop chamber music such as the piano trio and string quartet. Haydn’s famous works include Cello Concerto No.1 in C major and Symphony No.94 in G major.

mozart Mozart (1756 – 1791) Austrian classical composer. Mozart’s repertoire varied from light waltzes and dances to the spiritual elevating choral music of Missa Brevis and Mass in C minor. He composed over 600 pieces, including symphonies, operas, concertos and chamber music.

Ludwig_van_Beethoven Beethoven (1770 – 1827) German composer and pianist of the classical and romantic period. Another prodigious genius. Beethoven had a lasting influence on western classical music. His greatest works include his Symphonies No.6 and his choral work Missa Solemnis.

Related pages

rene-descartes People of the Seventeenth-Century – Famous people of the Seventeenth-Century which included the emerging European Enlightenment. Including; Shakespeare, Charles I, Louis XIV, Rene Descartes, Francis Bacon, John Locke and Galileo.

George_Washington-100 People of the American Revolution Leading figures in the American Revolution. Includes military leaders, philosophers, British protagonists and ordinary people. List includes; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, George III and Benjamin Franklin.

John_Keats People of the Romantic Era (1790s to 1850s) Romantic poets (Blake, Keats, Coleridge, Wordsworth and Shelley) and Romantic artists, composers and writers.

britishIndustrial Revolution (1750s to 1900) The great inventors, entrepreneurs and businessmen of the industrial revolution. Also includes the social activists of the era, such as Charles Dickens.

giuseppe-garibaldi People of the Nineteenth Century (1801 to 1900) Nineteenth Century saw the economic boom of the industrial revolution and world-wide movements for political change.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Famous People of the Eighteenth-Century”, Oxford, www.biographyonline.net. 22nd February 2017.


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