1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Jacotot, Joseph

JACOTOT, JOSEPH (1770–1840), French educationist, author of the method of “emancipation intellectuelle,” was born at Dijon on the 4th of March 1770. He was educated at the university of Dijon, where in his nineteenth year he was chosen professor of Latin, after which he studied law, became advocate, and at the same time devoted a large amount of his attention to mathematics. In 1788 he organized a federation of the youth of Dijon for the defence of the principles of the Revolution; and in 1792, with the rank of captain, he set out to take part in the campaign of Belgium, where he conducted himself with bravery and distinction. After for some time filling the office of secretary of the “commission d’organisation du mouvement des armées,” he in 1794 became deputy of the director of the Polytechnic school, and on the institution of the central schools at Dijon he was appointed to the chair of the “method of sciences,” where he made his first experiments in that mode of tuition which he afterwards developed more fully. On the central schools being replaced by other educational institutions, Jacotot occupied successively the chairs of mathematics and of Roman law until the overthrow of the empire. In 1815 he was elected a representative to the chamber of deputies; but after the second restoration he found it necessary to quit his native land, and, having taken up his residence at Brussels, he was in 1818 nominated by the Government teacher of the French language at the university of Louvain, where he perfected into a system the educational principles which he had already practised with success in France. His method was not only adopted in several institutions in Belgium, but also met with some approval in France, England, Germany and Russia. It was based on three principles: (1) all men have equal intelligence; (2) every man has received from God the faculty of being able to instruct himself; (3) everything is in everything. As regards (1) he maintained that it is only in the will to use their intelligence that men differ; and his own process, depending on (3), was to give any one learning a language for the first time a short passage of a few lines, and to encourage the pupil to study, first the words, then the letters, then the grammar, then the meaning, until a single paragraph became the occasion for learning an entire literature. After the revolution of 1830 Jacotot returned to France, and he died at Paris on the 30th of July 1840.

His system was described by him in Enseignement universel, langue maternelle, Louvain and Dijon, 1823—which passed through several editions—and in various other works; and he also advocated his views in the Journal de l’émancipation intellectuelle. For a complete list of his works and fuller details regarding his career, see Biographie de J. Jacotot, by Achille Guillard (Paris, 1860).