December 25, 1709 - November 11, 1751: Age 41
Julien Offray de La Mettrie was one of the first influential scientists to notice the link between mind and body, and to interpret that link, not as evidence of the "power of spirit", but as evidence that physical phenomena were to be accounted for as the effects of organic changes in the brain and nervous system. Trained as a physician, he played out what were for him the logical conclusions to this reasoning: that the meaning of life can be found in sensory pleasure, and that virtue is a form of self-love. He also publicly stated his case for atheism.
His views were so controversial that he had to move to a new country several times to avoid the possible violent consequences of the public ill-feeling he aroused. He was welcome, however, in the court of Frederick the Great. There he cured the French ambassador of an illness and the ambassador, in gratitude, threw a great feast for him. At the feast, de La Mettrie consumed a large quantity of paté aux truffes and, as a result, developed a fever, became delirious, and died.
"When death comes, the farce is over, therefore let us take our pleasure while we can."