Claude Adrien Helvetius, a French philosopher, born in Paris in January, 1715, died Dec. 26, 1771. He was of German descent, and his name was a translation of Schweitzer. His father was physician to Queen Maria Lecsz-czynska of France. When scarcely 23 years old, he was appointed farmer general with an annual revenue of about $60,000. He became the patron of philosophers, wits, and men of letters, and associated with Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Buffon. In order to devote himself exclusively to study, he resigned his office in 1750, married a few months later the countess de Ligniville, and led a retired life, mostly at his country seat of Vore, in the province of Perche. Here, while engaged in the composition of his philosophical works, he labored to improve the condition of the peasantry. In 1758 he published anonymously, under the title De l'esprit, a free and bold exposition of materialism, the last word, as an eminent French historian designates it, of the philosophical movement of his age, which was translated into the principal foreign languages. The work was proscribed by the pope, the Sorbonne, and the parliament, and burned by the common hangman; but Helvetius lost nothing of his popularity at home, where his private life and character offset his doctrine.
When he visited England and Germany, princes, nobles, and literary men vied with each other to welcome him; he was treated with special distinction by Frederick II., who received him in his own palace. On his return to Vore, he completed a poem, Le bonhenr, in six cantos, and a philosophical treatise. De l'homme, de ses facul-tes intellectuelles et de son education, both of which were published after his death, the latter by Prince Gallitzin (1772). The Lest edition of his complete works is that published under the supervision of Lefebvre de La Roche, by P. Didot (14 vols. 18mo, Paris, 1795). - His wife, who contributed much to make his life happy and his home agreeable to friends and visitors, survived him; she retired to Auteuil, near Paris, and her house was still open to philosophers. Dying in August, 1800, at the age of 81, she bequeathed her property to her friend, the celebrated physician Cabanis.