Found: April 2013
Authors: Pauline Lefèvre and Emmanuelle Papot
Late updated: December 2011 (tr. H.D.W.)
Article: BONAPARTE IN EGYPT (2): THE SCIENTIFIC EXPEDITION
Not everything Napoleon did was about the 20 years of Napoleonic Wars in European war and Africa…..
Napoleons Egyptian Campaign was also a Scientific Expedition
General Bonaparte left for Egypt at the end of spring in 1798, taking with him 50,000 men and eight hundred horses. This force included 160 scientists, engineers and artists whose task it was to study everything there was to find out about Egypt. Naturalists and biologists were asked to learn about Egyptian flora and fauna, whilst surveyors were expected to take lots of topographical readings (noting down features and characteristics of a particular area) in order to draw up accurate maps of the regions Bonaparte and his men visited. Archaeologists came along to study the country's architecture, in particular the mysterious pyramids. People in Europe already knew of Egypt, but they did not know much about it. This was in part because no-one had succeeded in translating the ancient Egyptian languages. It was not until 1821 that Jean-François Champollion managed to translate his first cartouche of hieroglyphics (a small group of hieroglyphics containing a royal name).(see the part about the Rosetta Stone!!) Scientists working with soldiers
Bonaparte brought with him scientists to Egypt, initially to help his soldiers conquer the country. The French general knew that there would not be many roads, and any roads that they did find would be poorly maintained. Once in Egypt, he would also need people to make ammunition and find food. The scientists' help in these jobs would be extremely important, and there was certainly plenty of work to be getting on with! These scientists, many of whom were between twenty and thirty years of age, were extremely enthusiastic in their work and discovered much about Egyptian culture and society which they found to be very different to their own. They also came to share their European scientific knowledge with the Egyptian population. The Europeans who arrived with Bonaparte in Egypt were surprised by what they learnt: "Upon our arrival in Egypt, we were shocked to find a huge population that was deprived of many useful or pleasant things in life, and which - armed with only the most basic instruments available - faced many difficulties [in their daily lives]." The Institute of Egypt
In August 1798, Bonaparte created the Institute of Egypt. The president of the institute was the scientist, Gaspard Monge, whilst his vice-president was General Bonaparte himself. It covered all of the scientists who were involved in the expedition and was divided into four sections, according to specialty: "mathematics", "physics", "political economy", and "arts and literature". The newspaper La Décade égyptienne was also created at the same time, primarily to print the proceedings of the institute's meetings and announce scientific discoveries. At this time, however, Egypt still did not have the printing press, so the French scientists organised one which could be used to print public newspapers, dictionaries, pamphlets and posters. These would all be useful for communicating with the French and Egyptian populations in Egypt. Arabic letters were made for the printing press, and the Egyptian population soon discovered how quickly a book could be printed with it. Very little was known about Egypt so everything they learned was a revelation.
The scientists who participated in the campaign were told to take note of as much information about Egypt as they could, and they would go on to make many important discoveries. Gaspard Monge revealed the secrets of the mirage phenomenon, ( go to http://www.howstuffworks.com/mirage.htm. For info on mirages) whilst the