The New International Encyclopædia/Champollion, Jean François
CHAMPOLLION, shäN'pṓ'lyôN', Jean François (1790-1832). A French Egyptologist. He was born December 23, 1790, at Figeac, Department of Lot. He is often called Champollion le Jeune, in distinction from his brother Champollion Figeac, a professor at Grenoble, who educated him. In 1807 he went to Paris to pursue his various Oriental studies, and in 1816 was appointed professor of history at the lyceum of Grenoble. In 1814 he published L'Egypte sous les Pharaons, a study of the geography of ancient Egypt. Afterwards he essayed the decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphics to which the discovery of the Rosetta stone had attracted widespread interest. His brilliant results were first communicated in his Lettre à Monsieur Dacier to the public (1822), and were more fully stated in his Précis du système hiéroglyphique (1824). It is now generally recognized that the attempts to ascribe priority in the decipherment of hieroglyphics to Dr. Thomas Young, and even to charge Champollion with plagiarizing Young's discoveries, were entirely unjust. Champollion worked independently, and in any case Young's results published in 1819 were of slight importance as compared with those obtained by Champollion. Champollion was sent by the French Government to study the museums of Italy in 1824, and in 1828 to Egypt, where he joined a Tuscan expedition, headed by Rosellini. After his return he became a member of the French Académie des Inscriptions (1830), and in 1832, professor of Egyptology at the Collège de France. His premature death was doubtless due to constant overwork. His genius and his untiring industry are most clearly shown in his posthumous works. His Grammaire égyptienne (1836) and his Dictionnaire hiéroglyphique (1841) were both unfinished at his death. His Notices manuscrites (1844, et seq.), at first in incomplete form, gives a more adequate idea of the results of his Egyptian journey than the more extensive Monuments de l'Egypte, published 1835 et seq. Of the numerous books and essays published during his lifetime, the most noteworthy are Panthéon égyptien (1824); Sur l'écriture hiératique (1821); Sur l'écriture démotique (1824). After Champollion's death, Egyptology retrograded temporarily, and much time was wasted in fruitless disputes on the merits of Champollion's system. At present, no one doubts the enormous debt of gratitude owed by science to the great decipherer, whose system has been brilliantly confirmed by modern discoveries, although it has been greatly developed and improved in matters of detail. Consult Aimé Champollion, Les deux Champollion, leur vie et leurs œuvres (Grenoble, 1888).