May 16
This day In Masonry

Mason Volataire, writer and playwright Voltaire was imprisoned on this day in 1717 in Bastille.

Voltaire was born in 1694. His full name was Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire. French writer and philosopher. He gained fame as the defender of victims of religious intolerance and as a master of satire. This won him the condemnation of the established church, who labeled him an "atheist," and who still ban his books until this day. He was educated under the Jesuits and began writing at an early age. He was confined to the Bastille in 1717-1718 and again in 1726, but made good use of his time by writing. Banished to England, he wrote his observations on English social and political institutions, which caused such an uproar that he was forced to seek seclusion in Lorraine from 1734-1749. In 1750 he accepted an invitation to visit Frederick the Great, , at the Prussian court, where he produced his greatest historical work, Le Siecle de Louis XIV. He quarreled with Frederick, left Prussia in 1753, and spent his last 20 years at Ferney, near Geneva. He was initiated into Freemasonry on April 7, 1778, less than two months before his death. The event took place at Paris in the lodge of Les Neuf Soeurs. The ceremony was conducted by the celebrated French astronomer, Joseph Lalande, q.v., who had as his wardens the Comte de Stroganoff, court chamber-lain to Empress Catherine of Russia, and Colonel de Laroche. He entered the lodge escorted by Benjamin Franklin, the American ambassador, and Count de Gebelin. It is recorded that the scene was one of unusual brilliance. Owing to Voltaire's age, distinction and debility, the usual preparations were dispensed with. The apron with which the candidate was invested was one which belonged to the philosopher Claude Helvetius, q.v. Despite the charges of the established church, Voltaire was a Diest rather than an Athiest. At his own expense he erected a church on his estate and dedicated it to God. One of his most quoted statements is: "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him." The fact that he became a Freemason is conclusive proof to all members of the Craft that he believed in Diety. His last words were "I die adoring God, loving my friends, not hating my enemies, and detesting superstition." He entered the Celestial Lodge on May 30, 1778.

In 1963, after 22 Earth orbits Mason and Astronaut Gordon Cooper returned to Earth, ending Project Mercury.
Leroy Gordon "Gordo" Cooper was born on March 06, 1927 in Shawnee, Oklahoma. He attended High Scholl in Murray, Kentucky and the University of Hawaii. He was an astronaut, who orbited the earth 22 times on May 16, 1977. He was also an American aeronautical engineer, test pilot and one of the seven original astronauts in Project Mercury, the first manned space program of the United States. Cooper piloted the longest and final Mercury spaceflight in 1963. He was the first American to sleep in space during that 34-hour mission and was the last American to be launched alone to conduct an entirely solo orbital mission. In 1965, Cooper flew as command pilot of Gemini 5.
Cooper received many awards including the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf clusters, the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal, the Collier Trophy, the Harmon Trophy, the DeMolay Legion of Honor, the John F. Kennedy Trophy, the Iven C. Kincheloe Award, the Air Force Association Trophy, the John Montgomery Trophy, the General Thomas D. White Trophy, the University of Hawaii Regents Medal, the Columbus Medal, and the Silver Antelope Award. He was a Master Mason (member of Carbondale Lodge # 82 in Carbondale, Colorado), and was given the honorary 33rd Degree by the Scottish Rite Masonic body.