French scholar, linguist, and Egyptologist. Commonly credited as being the father of Egyptology. Born at Figeac, France, as a child he exhibited amazing linguistic talent, mastering a dozen languages by the time he was 16. By age 20, he also spoke Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Amharic, Sanskrit, Avestan, Pahlavi, Arabic, Syriac, Chaldean, Persian, and Chinese - all of these in addition to his native French. In 1809 he became a professor of history at Grenoble. His interest in oriental languages, Coptic in particular, led to his being entrusted with the task of deciphering the Rosetta Stone, which had been discovered in 1799. He began in 1822, and in 1824 published Précis du Systéme Hiéroglyphique, giving rise to the field of modern Egyptology. He later became professor of Egyptology at Collège de France. During 1828-29, he led a joint Franco-Tuscan team into Egypt along with Ippolito Rossellini. Unfortunately, the expedition was marred by looting, vandalism, and irreparable damage caused to tombs in order to remove artifacts. Although British scientist Thomas Young had made considerable progress in translating the Rosetta Stone by 1814, Champollion refused to share credit, maintaining that Young had only translated the demotic portion, and had made errors in his understanding of the hieroglyphs. Exhausted by his Egyptian expedition, Champollion died of an apoplectic attack in Paris at the age of 41.
Bio by: Kristen Conrad