Firmin Abauzit (1679 - 1767), a learned Frenchman, was born of Protestant parents at Uzes, 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, P. Jurieu and J. Basnage. Proceeding to England, he was introduced to Sir Isaac Newton, who found in him one of the earliest defenders of his discoveries. Sir Isaac 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 in the university in 1723, but accepted, in 1727, the sinecure office of librarian to the city of his adoption. Here he died at a good old age, in 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 W. 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 Nouvelle Heloise, 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. He also edited and made valuable additions to J. 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). Some of them were translated into English by Dr Edward Harwood (1774).
Information regarding Abauzit will be found in J. Senebier's Histoire Litteraire de Genève, Harwood's Miscellanies, and W. Orme's Bibliotheca Biblica (1824).