Early in the 18th century Pierre Taillandier, a Jesuit professor and astronomer from Lyon, France, was sent to Pondicherry, India, as a missionary. Soon after his arrival in 1710, Taillandier chronicled his epic two-and-a-half year journey across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the South China Sea, and finally into the Bay of Bengal in a letter that was required of him by his superiors in France. His unique view of the world then, and his recollections of the events that occured during and after the discovery of the New World by Spanish explorers, are at the heart of the "The Devil Disguised as St. Elmo."
Through his French East India Company based in Pondicherry, King Louis XIV not only competed with the English and Dutch for the lucrative market of Indian cotton textiles and spices, but he also introduced the Catholic faith through the Jesuit missionaries who had two flourishing missions in South India by the time Pierre Taillandier landed. Until his arrival, a third mission planned further to the north of Pondicherry in Golconda, a kingdom in turmoil but controlled by forces loyal to the Mughal Emperor, could not be fully implemented for lack of missionaries. Having recovered from the rigors of his trip to India and mastered the Telugu language, he set out to his assigned mission there.
Jesuit records indicate that Taillandier died along with his two Hindu catechists while traveling between Pondicherry and Golconda. The mystery still exists as to how and when he died, variously reported between 1711 and 1713.