French Revolutionary. The leader of the Paris Jacobins, the most radical group of the French Revolution, he was murdered in his bath by a Royalist supporter, Charlotte Corday. Born in Boudry, Switzerland, he became a physician and writer, writing books on electricity, heat, light, law, and politics. When the French Academy of Sciences rejected his ideas, he believed that corruption of the court appointed officials kept him from winning the recognition he deserved. In 1789, the French Revolution began, and Marat supported it from the beginning, believing it would improve conditions of the common people. He founded a newspaper, "The Friend of the People," using it to attack all who opposed the Revolution. In 1792, when the Legislative Assembly imprisoned King Louis XVI and his followers, Marat called for the deaths of all who supported the King, including the Girondin faction, moderate revolutionists who supported a mixture of aristocracy and more power to the common people. More radical revolutionists, called Jacobins, wanted to destroy the monarchy and the aristocracy. In September 1792, at Marat's encouragement, revolutionaries broke into the city's prisons and killed over 1,000 prisoners, mostly supporters of the king. For several months, Marat was forced to hide in the Paris sewers, where he picked up a severe skin infection. When power swung back into the hands of the Jacobins, Marat was elected to the Legislative Assembly, and came out of hiding. Believing that the only way the revolution would succeed would be in blood, Marat demanded a purge of the Girondins, including them in with the monarchists. Charlotte Corday, a beautiful young Girondin, believed that France was headed for Civil War, and that the only way to stop it was to kill Marat, the most outspoken of the Jacobins. She stabbed him in July 1793 while he was soaking in his bath, the treatment for his skin infection. Despite her efforts to avert Civil War, the Jacobins, now led by Robespierre, used Marat's murder to justify the deaths of thousands of Girondins and Royalists, in a period called the "Reign of Terror." Jacques-Louis David, a close friend of Marat's, arrived just hours of his death, and would immortalize his friend in a romantic painting, entitled "The Death of Marat." The painting accurately captures the death scene, and is now considered a classic piece of art, despite its subject.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson