- "Our hopes as to the condition of the human species may be reduced to three points: The destruction of inequality between nations, the progress of equality in one and the same nation and lastly, the real improvement of man."
- ―Nicolas de Condorcet in Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind, 1794.[src]
Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet (1743 – 1794), commonly known as Nicolas de Condorcet, was a French mathematician, philosopher and political scientist of the French Revolution.
Born in 1746, Condorcet was a brilliant student. He entered the Royal Academy of Sciences in 1769, where he developed his own mathematical theories working on statistics and probabilities. Closely aligned with the philosophers of the Enlightenment, he believed that the radical developments of the French Revolution would allow for a better public use of reason.
Founding several journals, Condorcet strongly defended the cause of women, advocating women's suffrage. In 1789, he and Pierre-Simon Laplace, Jean-Charles Borda and Antoine Lavoisier published a serialized introduction to, and in defense of, the proposed metric system in the Journal de Paris.
In 1791, he was elected as a deputy of the Legislative Assembly, becoming its secretary. There, he lobbied for educational reform and aligned himself with the Girondists. Condorcet voted against the execution of King Louis XVI, making him a suspect in the eyes of many of his fellow deputies on the National Convention. After he drafted a constitution, it was rewritten and misrepresented by the radical Montagnards.
As the Girondists fell out of power, Condorcet was accused of treason. On 3 October 1793, a warrant was issued for his arrest, forcing him to go into hiding for nine months in the house of Madame Vernet. There, he wrote one of his most esteemed works, a manuscript called Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind that argued that humanity evolved to better itself through knowledge.
In the meantime, Condorcet's academic rivals had stolen his research on the history of political progress and planned to publish it under their name. Resolving to leave Paris, he had the Assassin Arno Dorian recover his papers. When Condorcet inquired as to how he had recovered the research, the latter told him that he was not at liberty to mention it.
Leaving Paris on 25 March 1794, Condorcet hid his manuscript in the coffin of King Louis IX at the royal necropolis underneath Franciade and left behind a drawing of a royal crest as a clue. On 27 March, he was arrested and subsequently imprisoned in Bourg-l'Égalité, where he died shortly after. It is widely believed that Condorcet had poisoned himself, although the Templar Order's opposition to Enlightenment thought makes it likely that they murdered him in the hopes of acquiring the manuscript.
Shortly after Condorcet's death, the Marquis de Sade took an interest in his manuscript and sought to find it. Contacting Arno for help, he showed the exiled Assassin the drawing of the crest, which directed him to the necropolis. Upon finding the coffin, however, Arno learned that the manuscript had been stolen by a local thief named Léon. The former was eventually able to give de Sade the manuscript, which was published in 1795 and is considered a highly important piece of Enlightenment philosophy.