Edward Gibbon (1737-94) British historian, noted for his formal polished style and rationalist outlook. Gibbon attended Oxford University but proved an undistinguished scholar. At .16 he shocked his family by converting to Catholicism and was sent off to Switzerland, where he reconverted. During this period abroad he began the serious study of history. After his return to England he served for several years in the army and entered Parliament in 1774. The first volume of his monumental decline and fall of the Roman Empire appeared in 1776, provoking some criticism with its attitude to the early Christians. In 1783 he retired to Lausanne to complete the work, publishing the final volumes five years later. His Memoirs appeared posthumously in 1796.