Voltaire devised his own method of winning the lottery, which made him immensely rich.
The illusion of winning the lottery is a dream that has been inherited since the beginnings of the lottery draws and talented scholars such as Voltaire also saw winning the lottery as a good way to get rich.
The French writer, one of the most important thinkers in history and the greatest exponent of the Enlightenment, also used to get into trouble and had financial problems, this led him and his friend, the mathematician Charles Marie de la Condamine, to devise a plan that made him win a lot of money in the lottery.
Voltaire was not exactly a writer without economic resources, he came from a wealthy family, and although he had not become one of the richest people in France, this allowed him to study law, and spend his time writing about what he wanted, traveling and gaining the favor of powerful people, despite being a troublesome guy.
A legal scam
Voltaire and his friends soon became aware of an error in the Primitiva lottery, which in those years was held in France. The ingenuity and the picaresque to take advantage of a legal error made them earn large sums of money.
At that time the Crown reduced the interest rates of its bonuses to save expenses and as a consequence their market value decreased drastically. The Minister of Finance decided that the owners of the bonds, in exchange for the reduction of their value, could buy a lottery ticket. Should the ticket be the winner, it would be rewarded with the original value of the bonus in question and an extra 500,000 French pounds.
Mathematician De La Condamine realized the error since every owner of a bonus was entitled to buy his lottery ticket, but the price of the ticket varied: each ticket cost 1/1,000 the value of the bonus. A lottery ticket for a £1,000 bonus was worth £1, but the same ticket cost £10 if you had a £10,000 bonus. But all lottery tickets had the same chance of winning, so the idea was simple, why not buy as many devalued bonuses as possible and get all the cheap tickets? In this way the chances of winning the £500,000 prize were very high.
Voltaire took it upon himself to make some legal arrangements for his group of investors to get their hands on all the available tickets. The tickets had to be purchased in front of a notary and every month Voltaire went to visit his trusted notary and returned with piles of lottery tickets. The plan was successful and on the day the lottery draw was held, one of the group's tickets was a winner.
Voltaire screwed up and ratted out the group of investors.
They started making money left and right and all the members of the group became rich. They could have gone on like this for years, but for Voltaire's rebelliousness.
At that time it was customary to sign lottery tickets on the back with good luck phrases, but Voltaire could think of nothing else but to put phrases like: "Here is the good idea of M.L.C (Marie de la Condamine)" or "Long live M. Pelletier-Desforts". These messages soon caught the attention of the authorities and exposed the ringleaders of the scam.
The group of friends were brought to trial, although the justice system recognized that they were taking advantage of a legal loophole, so they were not breaking the law. It is estimated that Voltaire and his group of investors were able to make around half a million pounds each and secure some financial stability.