On this day in 1980, 350 million people around the world tuned in to television's popular prime-time drama "Dallas," to find out who shot J.R.
Also, this is the birthday of Voltaire (Francois-Marie Arouet), born in 1694, the French essayist, philosopher and wit who was famous throughout Europe and whose ideas influenced the leaders of the American Revolution, not to mention the French one.
The book to read by Voltaire is Candide, an attack on optimism. Voltaire was a world-class cynic. His famous statement, "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him," was written in a letter.
Voltaire never heard of television but the soap opera flourished even in his time, in the form of plays for the theater, which he also wrote. His literary aim was satire not enlightenment, as he saw that men were incapable of it. He wrote:
"Men will always be mad and those who think they can cure them are the maddest of all."