Balthasar Bekker (1634-1698) was a Dutchman who did a great deal to end the terrible witchcraft persecutions that were set alight in Europe, and even Puritan New England, in the years between 1450-1700.
He was thrown out of the ministry for his preaching against religious customs that helped inspire superstition and mistrust.
His best known work was The World Bewitched (1695), in which he examined critically the phenomena generally ascribed to spiritual agency. He attacked the belief in sorcery and possession by the devil. During the witchcraft persecutions, countless victims, mainly elderly women, were killed when they were really showing signs of dementia (Alzheimer's) or other physical maladies. Even men and women with cataracts were seen to be as possessed by the devil.
The book had a sensational effect and was one of the key works of the Enlightenment in Europe. It was almost certainly the most controversial. Bekker became a heroic figure defying the superstition of the age.