Voltaire (1694-1778) was the nom de plume of François-Marie Arouet, who was a prominent French philosopher and a prolific writer on a wide range of subjects with an estimated output of more than 2,000 books and pamphlets and 20,000 letters.
However, it appears that Voltaire was somewhat sceptical about the existence of Atlantis remarking in Essai sur le moeurs that “ if it were true that such a part of the world ever existed. Most likely it was none other than the island of Madeira.”
Anyone researching Atlantis might be advised to remember Voltaire’s aphorism which states that while “doubt is not a pleasant mental state, certainty is an absurd one.”
Jean Silvain Bailly (1736-1793) was born in Paris and became a renowned astronomer, in which capacity he computed an orbit for Halley’s Comet and studied the four satellites of Jupiter that were then known to science.
He was a friend of the famous mathematician Laplace and also of Voltaire to whom he wrote his Letters on Atlantis published in 1778. In 2011, the British Library published a facsimile copy of the two volumes of the ‘Letters’ of the 1801 English translation by James Jacque of which letter #23 relates to Atlantis. A modern English translation of letter #23 by Pierre Beaudry is available online(b).
In it, Bailly proposed that the region around Spitzbergen in the Arctic Sea was the location of Atlantis; an idea allegedly supported by Voltaire. Bailly also identified Iceland as Ogygia! Bailly’s view was based on a study of Nordic and Middle Eastern mythologies and his conclusions were similar to the theory of his contemporary Buffon who had suggested that the Earth had originally an interior fire that gradually cooled. While this fire burned the northern latitudes were much warmer providing an ideal environment in which Atlantis could flourish. When the fire cooled the Atlanteans moved south. Bailly suggested that this migration brought them to Mongolia*and from there to the Caucasus and finally to Phoenicia.*
Jean Baptiste Delambre was subsequently to attack the pseudo-scientific theories of Bailly, but while doing so, inadvertently misinterpreted some of Isaac Causabon’s commentary on Strabo, inferring that Aristotle rejected the existence of Plato’s Atlantis. This error was adopted by later writers and gained such widespread uncritical acceptance that this view of Aristotle became ‘received wisdom’. Thorwald C. Franke has now endeavoured to redress that situation with his 2012 book Aristotle and Atlantis.
Bailly got caught up in the turmoil of the French Revolution and eventual died after a kiss on the neck from Madame Guillotine. His ideas regarding Atlantis were ignored until Helena Blavatsky integrated some of his concepts into her theosophical musings. This amalgam of Bailly’s and Blavatsky’s beliefs were incorporated into the thinking of the German Thule Society who supported Adolf Hitler(a).
Around Blavatsky’s time in 1885 Dr W. F. Warren published a book, Paradise Found that also proposed that the beginnings of the human race started at the North Pole and had been inundated at the time of the Deluge.