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Champollion, Jean Francois

CHAMPOLLION, JEAN FRANCOIS (1790-1832), French Egyptologist, called Le Jeune to distinguish him from Champollion-Figeac (q.v.), his elder brother, was born at Figeac, in the department of Lot, on the 23rd of December 1790. He was educated by his brother, and was then appointed government pupil at the Lyceum, which had recently been founded. His first work (1804) was an attempt to show by means of their names that the giants of the Bible and of Greek mythology were personifications of natural phenomena. At the age of sixteen (1807) he read before the academy of Grenoble a paper in which he maintained that the Coptic was the ancient language of Egypt. He soon after removed to Paris, where he enjoyed the friendship of Langlès, De Sacy and Millin. In 1809 he was made professor of history in the Lyceum of Grenoble, and there published his earlier works. Champollion's first decipherment of hieroglyphics dates from 1821. In 1824 he was sent by Charles X. to visit the collections of Egyptian antiquities in the museums of Turin, Leghorn, Rome and Naples; and on his return he was appointed director of the Egyptian museum at the Louvre. In 1828 he was commissioned to undertake the conduct of a scientific expedition to Egypt in company with Rosellini, who had received a similar appointment from Leopold II., grand duke of Tuscany. He remained there about a year. In March 1831 he received the chair of Egyptian antiquities, which had been created specially for him, in the Collège de France. He was engaged with Rosellini in publishing the results of Egyptian researches at the expense of the Tuscan and French governments, when he was seized with a paralytic disorder, and died at Paris in 1832. Champollion, whose claims were hotly disputed for many years after his death, is now universally acknowledged to have been the founder of Egyptology.

He wrote L'Egypte sous les Phraons (2 vols. 8vo, 1814); Sur l'écriture hiératique (1821); Sur l'écriture démotique; Précis du systéme hiéroglyphique, etc. (1824); Panthéon égyptien, ou collection des personnages mythologiques de l'ancienne Egypte (incomplete); Monumens de l'Egypte et de la Nubie considérés par rapport a l'histoire, la religion, etc.; Grammaire égyptienne (1836), and Dictionnaire égyptienne(1841), edited by his brother; Analyse méthodique du texte démotique de Rosette; Aperçu des résultats historiques de la découverte de l'alphabet hiéroglyphique (1827); Mémoires sur les signes employés par les Egyptiens dans leurs trois systèmes graphiques à la notation des principales divisions du temps; Lettres ecrites d'Egypte et de Nubie (1833); and also seveial letters on Egyptian subjects, addressed at different periods to the duc de Blacas and others.

See H. Hartleben, Champollion, sein Leben und sein Werk (2 vols., 1906); also Egypt: Language and Writing (ad init.).

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

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