I was reading a very interesting book : Napoleon by Vincent Cronin .
It is a wow biography . There is a very interesting chapter on Napoleon’s Egypt conquest . This conquest was not merely a military project but was also a academic adventure . In today’s VERITAS we will only talk about the Academic campaign and not the Military Campaign .
Napoleon’s plan was to attack Egypt and then take control of the silk route , build a canal and then attack India .But it was also to be a expedition of learning and understanding the ancient civilization.
Napoleon started recruiting a strange kind of army that consisted of scientists , artists , historians , poets and normal soldiers too .
Among the people who hie took with him were :
Geoffery Hilaire : Natrulist
Nicholas Conte : Baloon Warfare expert
Dolomieu : Mineralogist
Fourier : Mathematician
Redoute : Painter
He also took a huge library on his ships and the evenings on the deck were spent in scientific and philosophical discussions .
Do you know that Napoleon was a amateur Mathematician himself. There is even a theorem in Goemetry called Napoleon’s Theorem !!!
He landed in Egypt in 1798 .
After he beat the Turks in the battle of Pyramids he became the ruler of Egypt . He published the first Egyptian books . He had the got the type from Europe . His knowledge of the Quoran made him popular with the locals . Now the english admiral destroyed the shpis that Napoleon had used to land in Egypt and napoleon and his troops were stranded in Egypt .
Napoleon made good use of his time . He formed a Institut de France consisting of the scientists that he got with him . napoleon became its head . The members would meet every five days and discuss science . All members grew thick moustaches . This was the kind of research these dudes did :
Berthollet : Egyptian technique for manufacturing indigo Norrey : Measured Ptolemy’s coloumn Savigny : found an unknown species of water Lilly Viloteau : studied Egyptian Music Larrey : studied Egyptian eye problems.
Napoleon himself along with his friend Cafarelli studied the canal
which in ancient times joined Mediterranean Sea and the Red sea . They would
take 2 roasted chickens with them and spenf the whole day studing the canal.
Napoleon also measured the dimensions of the pyramids .
napoleon also ordered the historians to study the history of Egypt .
He also encouraged the study of ancient egyptian writings : hierographics .
Till now no one knew what the symbols in the writings meant . So the
writings on Pyramids etc could not be understood .
At a session of the institute Lancret presented before Napoleon
a wonderful stone : The rosetta stone . It was 3 feet X 2 feet and
had text written in 3 languages : ancient egyptian hierographics , greek
and domonic . Lancret was an expert in greek and started to decipher
the egyptian writings . He was joined by Champillion who was an expert
in 9 languages . They together deciphered the ancient egyptian language.
This was a major discovery . Egyptians were thrilled . A whole
world of Egyptian History was opened to them .
So we see how much work was done by Napoleon’s institute while
stranded in Egypt . The sea was blocked and Napoleon’s fleet was
destroyed . He could not go east because the Turks were hostile .
So Napoleon and his institute stayed in Egypt and discovered
Science , history and goegraphy of Egypt .