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Jean Paul Marat

Marat, Jean Paul (zhäN pōl märäˈ) [key], 1743–93, French revolutionary, b. Switzerland. He studied medicine in England, acquired some repute as a doctor in London and Paris, and wrote scientific and medical works (some in English), but was frustrated in his attempts to win official recognition for his work. His Philosophical Essay on Man (1773) was attacked by Voltaire for its extreme materialism. When the Revolution began (1789), he founded the journal L'Ami du peuple, in which he vented his bitter hatred and suspicion of all who were in power. Outlawed for his incendiary diatribes and calls for violence, he twice fled to England (in 1790 and the summer of 1791). He continued to publish his paper in secret and successfully attacked Jacques Necker, the marquis de Lafayette, the commune, the comte de Mirabeau, the émigrés, and, finally, the king. Marat's inflammatory articles helped foment the Aug. 10, 1792, uprising and the September massacres (see French Revolution). In Aug., 1792, he was elected (1792) to the Convention. There he led the attack against the Girondists. He was stabbed to death (July 13) in his bath by Charlotte Corday, a royalist sympathizer. As a revolutionary martyr he was the subject of many tributes, most strikingly the famous death portrait of Jacques-Louis David. Selections from his writings have been published as Textes choisis (1945).

See studies by L. R. Gottschalk (1967) and J. Censer, Prelude to Power (1976).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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