|Born||November 11, 1679
Uzès, Kingdom of France
|Died||March 20, 1767
Geneva, Republic of Geneva
|Known for||Proofreading or correcting the writings of Isaac Newton|
Firmin Abauzit (1679–1767) was a French scholar who worked on physics, theology and philosophy, and served as librarian in Geneva (Switzerland) during his final 40 years. Abauzit is also notable for proofreading or correcting the writings of Isaac Newton and other scholars.
Firmin Abauzit was born of Protestant parents November 11, 1679 at Uzès, in Languedoc. His father died when he was but two years of age; and when, on the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, the authorities took steps to have him educated in the Roman Catholic faith, his mother contrived his escape.
For two years his brother and he lived as fugitives in the mountains of the Cévennes, but they at last reached Geneva, where their mother afterwards joined them on escaping from the imprisonment in which she was held from the time of their flight. Abauzit at an early age acquired great proficiency in languages, physics, and theology.
In 1698, he went to the Netherlands, and there became acquainted with Pierre Bayle, Pierre Jurieu and Jacques Basnage. Proceeding to England, he was introduced to Sir Isaac Newton, who found in him one of the earliest defenders of his discoveries. Newton corrected in the second edition of his Principia an error pointed out by Abauzit, and, when sending him the Commercium Epistolicum, said, "You are well worthy to judge between Gottfried Leibniz and me."
The reputation of Abauzit induced William III to request him to settle in England, but he did not accept the king's offer, preferring to return to Geneva. There, from 1715 he rendered valuable assistance to a society that had been formed for translating the New Testament into French. He declined the offer of the chair of philosophy at the University of Geneva in 1723. In 1727, he was granted citizenship in Geneva, and he accepted the office of honorary librarian to Geneva, the city of his adoption. There in Geneva, he died past the age of 87, on March 20, 1767.
Abauzit was a man of great learning and of wonderful versatility. Whatever chanced to be discussed, it used to be said of Abauzit, as of Professor William Whewell of more modern times, that he seemed to have made it a subject of particular study. Rousseau, who was jealously sparing of his praises, addressed to him, in his Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse, a fine panegyric; and when a stranger flatteringly told Voltaire he had come to see a great man, the philosopher asked him if he had seen Abauzit.
Little remains of the labours of this intellectual giant, his heirs having, it is said, destroyed the papers that came into their possession, because their own religious opinions were different. A few theological, archaeological, and astronomical articles from his pen appeared in the Journal Helvetique and elsewhere, and he contributed several papers to Rousseau's Dictionnaire de musique (1767). He wrote a work throwing doubt on the canonical authority of the Apocalypse, which called forth a reply from Dr Leonard Twells, and was published in Denis Diderot's Encyclopédie. He also edited and made valuable additions to Jacob Spon's Histoire de la republique de Geneve. A collection of his writings was published at Geneva in 1770 (Oeuvres de feu M. Abauzit), and another at London in 1773 (Oeuvres diverses de M. Abauzit).
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Abauzit, Firmin". Encyclopædia Britannica 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 8. Endnotes:
- J. Senebier's Histoire Littéraire de Genève,
- Harwood's Miscellanies, and
- W. Orme's Bibliotheca Biblica (1824).
- Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Abauzit, Firmin.
- Works by or about Firmin Abauzit in libraries (WorldCat catalog)