Two page article from The Lancet.
The art of medicine. Jean-François Champollion and ancient Egyptian embalming
By Andrew Robinson
200 years ago this year, the future founder of Egyptology, French linguist and archaeologist Jean-François Champollion (1790–1832)—the fi rst person since classical antiquity to be able to read the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs—conducted a primitive experiment. It turned out to be one of the initial scientifi c steps on the long road to unravelling the mysteries of mummifi cation, fi rst described in the fi fth century BC by the Greek historian Herodotus.
In 1812, Champollion was an impecunious 21-year-old assistant professor of history at the University of Grenoble and an assistant at the city’s municipal library. A teenage prodigy in Oriental languages, he had become obsessed by understanding ancient Egypt, as a result of his schoolboy exposure to fascinating antiquities brought back from Egypt by the scientist and prefect of Grenoble, Joseph Fourier, who accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte’s army on its expedition in 1798–1801.