German philosopher and playwright Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781) was born on this day in Kamenz, Upper Lusatia, Saxony. The son of a Lutheran pastor, Lessing was a literature and mathematics whiz who studied theology and medicine.
"He who doesn't lose his wits over certain things has no wits to lose," he said and worked as a translator for François Voltaire.
His drama, Miss Sara Sampson (1755), was inspired by the English writings of William Shakespeare and John Milton and revolutionized German theater. Instead of following the classic French-laden tradition of aristocratic distinctions, Lessing introduced heroic, middle class drama.
He said, "For me the greatest beauty always lies in the greatest clarity." His comedy, Minna von Barnhelm (1767), was praised for its relevance and humanity... and it celebrated German patriotism.
Lessing wrote with a passion for truth. His work celebrated independent thinkers and inspired other artists, laying the foundation for Johann von Goethe to write Faust.
"We lose much in him," wrote Goethe after Lessing's death, "much more than we think."
Every "thank you" is a prayer.