LAKANAL, JOSEPH (1762-1845), French politician, was born at Serres (Ariege) on the 14thof July 1762. His name, originally Lacanal, was altered to distinguish him from his Royalist brothers. He joined one of the teachihg congregations, and for fourteen years taught in their schools. When elected by his native department to the Convention in 1792 he was acting as vicar to his uncle Bernard Font (1723-1800), the constitutional bishop of Pamiers. In the Convention he held apart from the various party sections, although he voted for the death of Louis XVI. He rendered great service to the Revolution by his practical knowledge of education. He became a member of the Committee of Public Instruction early in 1793, and after carrying many useful decrees on the preservation of national monuments, on the military schools, on the reorganization of the Museum of Natural History and other matters, he brought forward on the 26th of June his Projet d'education nationale (printed at the Imprimerie Nationale), which proposed to lay the burden or primary education on the public funds, but to leave secondary education to private enterprise. Provision was also made for public festivals, and a central commission was to be entrusted with educational questions. The scheme, in the main the work of Sieyes, was refused by the Convention, who submitted the whole question to a special commission of six, which under the influence of Robespierre adopted a report by Michel le Peletier de Saint Fargeau shortly before his tragic death. Lakanal, who was a member of the commission, now began to work for the organization of higher education, and abandoning the principle of his Projet advocated the establishment of state-aided schools for primary, secondary and university education. In October 1793 he was sent by the Convention to the south-western departments and did not return to Paris until after the revolution of Thermidor. He now became president of the Education Committee and promptly abolished the system which had had Robespierre's support. He drew up schemes for departmental normal schools, for primary schools (reviving in substance the Projet} and central schools. He presently acquiesced in the supersession of his own system, but continued his educational reports after his election to the Council of the Five Hundred. In 1799 he was sent by the Directory to organize the defence of the four departments on the left bank of the Rhine threatened by invasion. Under the Consulate he resumed his professional work, and after Waterloo retired to America, where he became president of the university of Louisiana. He returned to France in 1834, and shortly afterwards, in spite of his advanced age, married a second time. He died in Paris on the 14th of February 1845; his widow survived till 1881. Lakanal was an original member of the Institute of France. He published in 1838 an Expose sommaire des travaux de Joseph Lakanal.
His eloge at the Academy of Moral and Political Science, of which he was a member, was pronounced by the comte de Re'musat (February 16, 1845), and a Notice historique by F. A. M. Mignet was read on the 2nd of May 1857. See also notices by Emile Darnaud (Paris, 1874), " Marcus " (Paris, 1879), P. Legendre in Hpmmes de la revolution (Paris, 1882), E. Guillon, Lakanal et I'instruction publique (Paris, 1881). For details of the reports submitted by him to the government see M. Tourneux, " Histoire de I'instruction pubjique, actes et deliberations de la convention, etc." in Bibliog. de I'hist. de Paris (vol. iii., 1900) ; also A. Robert and G. Cougny, Dictionnaire des parlementaires (vol. ii., 1890).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)