1712 – He was born on the 28th day of June this year in Geneva, Switzerland. His mother, Suzanne Bernard Rousseau, died nine days after his birth due to complications from childbirth, and his father Isaac, a failed watchmaker, abandoned him in 1722 to avoid imprisonment for fighting a duel.
1728 – He left Geneva on the 14th day of March of this year, after several years of apprenticeship to a notary and then an engraver. He then met Françoise-Louise de Warens, a French Catholic baroness thirteen years his elder who would later become his lover.
1742 – He moved to Paris in order to present the Académie des Sciences with a new system of numbered musical notation he had invented, based on a single line displaying numbers that represented intervals between notes and dots and commas that indicated rhythmic values.
1743 - From this year to 1744, he was secretary to the French ambassador in Venice, whose republican government Rousseau would refer to often in his later political work. After this, he returned to Paris, where he befriended and lived with Thérèse Levasseur, a semi-literate seamstress who, according to Rousseau, bore him five children, though this number may not be accurate.
1749 - While in Paris, he became friends with Diderot and beginning in this year contributed several articles to his Encyclopédie, beginning with some articles on music.
1755 – His most important contribution was an article on political economy, written in this year. Soon after, his friendship with Diderot and the Encyclopedists would become strained.
1749 - He walked to Vincennes to visit Diderot in prison, he read in the Mercure de France of an essay competition sponsored by the Académie de Dijon, asking whether the development of the arts and sciences had been morally beneficial.
1754 – He returned to Geneva where he reconverted to Calvinism and regained his official Genevan citizenship.
1755 – This year, he completed his second major work, the Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality among Men. This began a troubled period in Rousseau's personal relationships in which he gradually became estranged from his former friends such as Diderot and Grimm and from benefactors such as Madame d'Epinay.
1761 – He published the successful romantic novel Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse (The New Heloise).
1762 – He published two major books, first Du Contrat Social, Principes du droit politique (in English, literally Of the Social Contract, Principles of Political Right) in April and then Émile, or On Education in May.
1765 - Facing criticism in Switzerland, his house in Motiers was stoned on the night of September 6 of this year. He took refuge with the philosopher David Hume in Great Britain.
1767 – He fled back to France in this year under the name "Renou," although officially he was not allowed to return before 1770.
1768 – He went through a legally invalid marriage to Thérèse, and in 1770, he returned to Paris.
1771 - As a condition of his return, he was not allowed to publish any books, but after completing his Confessions, Rousseau began private readings in this year.
1772 – He was invited to present recommendations for a new constitution for Poland, resulting in the Considerations on the Government of Poland, which was to be his last major political work.
1776 – This year, he completed Dialogues: Rousseau Judge of Jean-Jacques and began work on the Reveries of the Solitary Walker.
1778 – He died on the 2nd day of July this year in Ermonville, France.
1782 - At the request of Madame d'Epinay the police ordered him to stop, and the Confessions, was only partially published in this year, four years after his death. All his subsequent works were also only to appear posthumously.
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- "You are worried about seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing. What! Is it nothing to be happy? Nothing to skip, play, and run around all day long? Never in his life will he be so busy again."
- "Every man has the right to risk his own life in order to preserve it. Has it ever been said that a man who throws himself out the window to escape from a fire is guilty of suicide?"