French linguist and antiquarian who deciphered the texts on the Rosetta Stone. Born at Figeac in France, he was educated at the Académie de Grenoble, and when only sixteen years old read a paper there in which he argued that the Coptic language was the ancient language of Egypt. In 1807 he went to Paris, where he studied at the School of Oriental Languages and the Collège de France. From this time on he devoted himself to the study of ancient languages, returning to Grenoble in 1819 to become Professor of History at the Lyceum. In the early 1820s he used the Rosetta Stone texts to present a solution to Egyptian hieroglyphics, publishing his results in 1824 as Précis du système hiéroglyphique des anciens Egyptiens, figuratif, idéographique et alphabétique. Later in 1824 he went to study the Egyptian antiquities in the museums of Italy, and on his return was appointed director of the Egyptian Museum at the Louvre. From 1828 to 1830 he carried out expeditions to Egypt, and in 1831 he was appointed to the Chair of Egyptology specially created for him at the Collège de France. However, his health was already failing and he died in Paris a year later.
L. Adkins and R. Adkins, 2001, The keys of Egypt: the race to read the hieroglyphs. London: HarperCollins