Paul Henri Thiery, Baron d'Holbach was born in December 1723. A German by birth (Paul Heinrich Dietrich), he was raised in France and inherited his uncle's fortune and title there.
Although few were aware of the fact during his lifetime, Holbach was the first writer of openly atheistic works in modern history. He ranks as one of the most radical philosophers of the Enlightenment. His estate in Paris became a meeting-place for many prominent intellectual and political figures of the 18th century. Holbach was a close friend of Denis Diderot (1713-1784), and colloborated with him on Diderot's famous Encyclopédie (1751-72).
To avoid persecution Holbach was obliged to publish most of his anti-religious literature anonymously or under false names, usually those of known freethinkers who had been deceased for some years. His most famous book is The System of Nature (1770), nicknamed "The Atheist's Bible" and first published under the name of Mirabaud. In 1772 he published Good Sense, a summary of the principal ideas of The System of Nature. Holbach's books aroused much controversy and attracted rebuttals even from deistic freethinkers such as Voltaire and Frederick the Great.
Holbach died in Paris on 21 January 1789, a few months prior to the French Revolution. His authorship of The System of Nature and other works did not become widely known until the 19th century.