Simone Weil

1909 (Paris) – 1943 (Ashford, England)

Alain taught her, and had a lasting influence on her thought, especially its political aspects. The mathematician André Weil was her brother — prodigies brought up in an eccentric family, they saw nothing odd in communicating sometimes in ancient Greek. Mechnikov was a family friend: his research into immunity was indirectly responsible for the family’s obsessive approach to hygiene. Beauvoir, fellow high-flying student, found her uncongenial (they barely spoke.) Bataille worked alongside her briefly; perceptive about her “blind passion for lucidity”, he also parodied her in fiction.