Pierre-Francois Bouchard


July 1, 2022

Pierre-François-Xavier Bouchard (Orgelet, April 29, 1772-Givet, August 5, 1832) was a French captain and engineer, known for the discovery of the Rosetta stone in the port city of Rosetta —Rashid in Egyptian— on July 15, 1799 during the Egyptian campaign.


Pierre-François-Xavier Bouchard was the son of Pierre Bouchard, a master carpenter who became a merchant and then a teacher, who married in Orgelet on November 25, 1756, Pierrette-Janet de Cressia with whom he had seven children, including Pierre -François-Xavier, the youngest.[1] For two years, he took courses in philosophy and mathematics at the Besançon college. In 1793 he began his military career as a sergeant major in a battalion of grenadiers in Paris. He was sent to the National School of Aerostats in 1794 and appointed lieutenant of the balloons in 1795. He taught mathematics as assistant principal at this school located in Chalais-Meudon. There he coincided with Nicolas-Jacques Conté when, during an experiment under Conté's direction, he was injured by the explosion of a glass flask filled with hydrogen gas, Conté losing his left eye and Bouchard injuring his right eye.[1][2] ] He entered the Polytechnic School on November 21, 1796, taking descriptive geometry courses taught by the famous mathematician Gaspard Monge and learned the art of fortifications. An unforeseen event would interrupt his studies: the Minister of War required Lieutenant Bouchard for public service and assigned him on April 20, 1798 to the Egyptian expeditionary force.[1] Three days later, before embarking, he married Marie -Élisabeth Bergere —who directed the sewing workshop for balloon envelopes at the Aerostatics School—.[3]

Campaign in Egypt and Rosetta Stone

On May 19, having reached the port of Toulon, he set sail on the Franklin. He landed on July 4 after the capture of Alexandria, and was appointed a member of the Committee on Arts and Sciences. Still under Conté's authority he was assigned to the group of mechanical artists and in charge of an investigation into the techniques and crafts of the Egyptians. He then left Alexandria on September 7 for Cairo, where he stayed only a few weeks. On October 3, he was under the orders of General Antoine François Andréossy in a team of geographers to carry out the reconnaissance of Lake Menzalé between Damietta and Port Said.[4] This mission only lasted forty days, because he had to appear before the exit jury of the Polytechnic School, being in mid-November. He was then promoted to lieutenant second class of engineers on November 28, 1798, and left the Science and Arts Commission to be versed in the army.[1] On October 31, 1798 Bonaparte decided that in order to ensure the defense of the city of Rosetta, it was necessary to repair an old fortification designated under the name of Borg Rachid — old fortification of the city of Rashid baptized as Fort Julien by the French in memory of the Bonaparte's aide-de-camp, Thomas Prosper Jullien, assassinated in the region in July 1797. Bouchard was assigned to this task to lend a hand to Colonel d'Hautpoul in reinforcing the fort. It was there that on July 15, 1799, on the left bank of the west branch of the Nile, the famous black stone was found, during earthworks carried out on ancient substructures. Bouchard was aware of the importance of his finding. General Menou, then in command of the Alexandria district and Rosetta, immediately commissioned a translation of the Greek text. The official statement of the discovery, revealed in the Courrier de l'Égypte, the army press organ, did not appear until September 15, 1799.[5] Bouchard had been confided