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Jean François Champollion (1790-1832)

Champollion was born in Figeac, France, on 23 December 1790, the son of a bookseller. He became interested in hieroglyphs on a childhood visit to Fourier, where he first learnt about the Rosetta Stone. As a boy he learnt many languages, including Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, Chaldean and Chinese, and later added Coptic, Ethiopic, Sanskrit, Persian and others. At the age of sixteen he read a paper on the Coptic language before the Grenoble Academy.

He taught History and Politics at Grenoble between 1809 and 1816, and was appointed professor in History and Geography there in 1818. In 1822 he gave a lecture, published as the letter to M. Dacier, in which he identified hieroglyphic letters in royal names. A fuller decipherment was published in 1824.

Champollion was appointed Conservator of the Egyptian collections at the Louvre, Paris in 1826. He made his sole visit to Egypt in 1828-29, conducting the first systematic survey of the country's monuments, history and archaeology. On his return, the first chair in Egyptian history and archaeology was created for him at the Collège de France, Paris. Champollion died on 4 March 1832 as a result of a stroke, while preparing the results of his expedition for publication. His Egyptian grammar was published posthumously.

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