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Antoine Court de Gébelin was born at Nimes, France, on January 25, 1725, and died at Paris on May 10, 1784. He studied in Lausanne and Geneva before being ordained in 1754, but did not immediately serve in the priesthood, instead acting as secretary and assistant to his father, a Protestant pastor, and eventually becoming his informal successor. Despite the duties to his office, de Gebelin found time for scientific study as well. The Calas affair in 1762, which created great excitement among the Protestants in France, inspired Court to publish his Les Toulousaines, ou lettres historiques et apologétiques en faveur de la religion réformée (Edinburgh, 1763), but Voltaire, who had been a leader of the agitation, did not approve of the work, and Court left Lausanne in anger. After traveling through southern France, he eventually made his home in Paris and established a name for himself there. In 1756, he was appointed general deputy by the Protestants, and in 1780 he became royal censor, and took advantage of this position to lessen the miseries of the Protestants. His fame as a scholar rests primarily on Le Monde primitif (1773-84), a learned but ineffectual attempt, in nine volumes, to determine the original language and alphabet, and to give an allegorical interpretation of mythology, as well as of Greek and French etymologies, and the like. He wrote several other works, including Lettre sur le magnetisme animal (1784) and the posthumous Devoirs du prince et du citoyen (1789). A supporter of the American Revolution, he also collaborated on the Affaires d'Angleterre et de l'Amérique, a magazine edited by Benjamin Franklin and others. In addition, he is sometimes credited as the first person to suggest that Tarot cards (previously used for a type of card game) might be used to divine the future. Within two years of his first essay on the subject, a fortune teller known as "Etteilla" published instructions for reading the tarot, and the practice of "tarot reading" was born.

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