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Bourrit, Marc Theodore

BOURRIT, MARC THEODORE (1739-1819), Swiss traveller and writer, came of a family which was of French origin but had taken refuge at Geneva for reasons connected with religion. His father was a watchmaker there, and he himself was educated in his native city. He was a good artist and etcher, and also a pastor, so that by reason of his fine voice and love of music he was made (1768) precentor of the church of St Peter (the former cathedral) at Geneva. This post enabled him to devote himself to the exploration of the Alps, for which he had conceived a great passion ever since an ascent (1761) of the Voirons, near Geneva. In 1775 he made the first ascent of the Buet (10,201 ft.) by the now usual route from the Pierre à Bérard, on which the great flat rock known as the Table au Chantre still preserves his memory. In 1784-1785 he was the first traveller to attempt the ascent of Mont Blanc (not conquered till 1786), but neither then nor later (1788) did he succeed in reaching its summit. On the other hand he reopened (1787) the route over the Col du Géant (11,060 ft.), which had fallen into oblivion, and travelled also among the mountains of the Valais, of the Bernese Oberland, etc. He received a pension from Louis XVI., and was named the historiographe des Alpes by the emperor Joseph II., who visited him at Geneva. His last visit to Chamonix was in 1812. His writings are composed in a naïve, sentimental and rather pompous style, but breathe throughout a most passionate love for the Alps, as wonders of nature, and not as objects of scientific study. His chief works are the Description des glacières de Savoye, 1773 (English translation, Norwich, 1775-1776), the Description des Alpes pennines et rhétiennes (2 vols., 1781) (reprinted in 1783 under the title of Nouvelle Description des vallées de glace, and in 1785, with additions, in 3 vols., under the name of Nouvelle Description des glacières), and the Descriptions des cols ou passages des Alpes, (2 vols., 1803), while his Itinéraire de Genève, Lausanne et Chamouni, first published in 1791, went through several editions in his lifetime.

(W. A. B. C.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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