Fontaine was a master con artist who was so good at his job that he could even impersonate a “chinaman” for as long as two weeks. He arrived in Andrew Ryan’s city of Rapture sometime in 1948 and founded Fointaine Fisheries. However, Fontaine used it as a front for smuggling and selling contraband items from the surface. He grew rich from these practices, and they led him to a new line of business. One of his smugglers discovered a sea slug which regenerated tissue. This caught the attention of a scientist in Rapture named Brigid Tennenbaum, who asked Fointaine to fund her study of the slug. Along with Dr. Yi Suchong, they founded Fontaine Futuristics, which eventually discovered how to reproduce and refine the healing properties of the slug, which became known as ADAM and made the plasmid and gene tonic industries possible. Looking for a way to produce ADAM more quickly, Fontaine opened the Little Sister’s Orphanage, where little girls were experimented on and turned into the ADAM producing Little Sisters. Having gained economic dominance in Rapture, Fontaine sought ultimate control. He opened Fotaine’s Home for the Poor, and sought to build an army from the masses of people that were victimized by Ryan’s free market policies.
On September 12, 1958, Fontaine apparently died in a shootout with Ryan’s men, sealing himself the status of a martyr to those who did not know his true nature. In reality he faked his death, hoping to stir up discontent among the lower classes and give Ryan the false hope that his nemesis was dead. He reemerged as Atlas, a fisherman, proletariat hero and family man. His original voice remained, covered for with a heavy Irish accent. He then charismatically charmed the mob as a humble freedom fighter, while setting the stage for the Civil War which would tear Rapture apart. Originally hoping for victory in this genetic arms race, “Atlas” soon found himself trapped in Rapture, with Ryan in control of the bathyspheres and the Splicers through his pheromone systems. With no other way out, “Atlas” activated his sleeper agent, Jack.
When Jack finally reaches Fontaine, he has already spliced himself into a hulking, statuesque monster with three different major Plasmid elements. During the battle, Jack extracts the ADAM out of him with a Little Sister’s needle until finally, he is weakened enough that he is ambushed and killed by a swarm of Little Sisters who stab Fontaine multiple times with their needles, draining him of the remaining ADAM in his body.
In his death, Fontaine illustrates Brigid Tenenbaum’s realization that excessive ADAM use forces the body into dependency. The ambiguous expression “Keep back the tide” is shown to mean a not only mental but physical degeneration when the body’s dependency is denied. Without ADAM, Fontaine’s enhanced body simply could not survive.