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Geologist Deodat de Dolomieu

Dieudonné Sylvain Guy Tancrède de Gratet de Dolomieu usually known as Déodat de Dolomieu (23 June 1750 – 28 November 1801) was a French geologist; the mineral and the rock dolomite and the largest summital crater on the Piton de la Fournaise volcano were named after him.

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By 1798 De Dolomieu had developed an international reputation as one of the leading geologists in the world and was invited to join the scientific expedition accompanying Bonaparte's invasion of Egypt, as part of the natural history and physics section of the Institut d'Égypte. In March 1799 De Dolomieu became ill and was forced to leave Alexandria, Egypt for France. His ship, caught in a storm, sought refuge at the port of Taranto, Italy where De Dolomieu was made a prisoner of war. General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, the father of Alexandre Dumas, the author, was also captured and held. The city was part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, which was then at war with France. De Dolomieu had previously made a powerful enemy of the Grand Master of the Maltese Order when he helped negotiate the surrender of the island of Malta to Napoleon. The Grand Master denounced De Dolomieu and he was transferred to Messina, Sicily and imprisoned under horrible conditions, in solitary confinement, for the next 21 months.

The imprisonment of a world-famous scientist, under such conditions, was abhorrent to the intellectual community of Europe. Even the scientific community of England (who was at war with France) protested the confinement. Talleyrand, the French foreign minister, attempted to negotiate Dolomieus release through the Pope. Napoleon, who was First Consul of France at the time, felt that asking for such an intervention by the Pope would be dishonorable. The future Emperor's approach to the problem was more direct. In the spring of 1800 Napoleon led the French army into Italy, delivering a crushing blow to the Austrians and their Italian allies on 14 June at the Battle of Marengo. All of Italy then came within Napoleon's sphere. One of the terms dictated by Napoleon in the peace treaty of Florence (March 1801) was the immediate release of De Dolomieu.

The French Campaign in Egypt and Syria (1798–1801) was Napoleon Bonaparte's campaign in the Ottoman territories of Egypt and Syria, proclaimed to defend French trade interests, weaken Britain's access to British India, and to establish scientific enterprise in the region. It was the primary purpose of the Mediterranean campaign of 1798, a series of naval engagements that included the capture of Malta.

Though a military failure, the expedition was successful from a scientific and cultural point of view. The discovery of ancient Egypt fascinated artistic and scholarly Europe. Legends surrounding the campaign became part of the imperial regime’s propaganda, before nourishing the Napoleonic myth. This discovery of Oriental civilisation was a shock for many of the French: the “return from Egypt” style became all the rage under the Consulate and the Empire, while Orientalism flourished in the French arts for several decades. Research into the civilisation of the pharaohs also thrived, from the monumental Description de l’Egypte (1809-1829), down to the decipherment of hieroglyphs by Champollion (Précis du système hiéroglyphique des anciens égyptiens, 1824), without forgetting the opening of the Egyptian museum by Charles X in the Louvre in 1826, or the unveiling of the obelisk of Luxor on Place de la Concorde in 1836. For decades, competition between French and British Egyptologists was rife. France and Egypt kept up a special relationship throughout the entire century, concretised by travel, trade and diplomatic exchanges. The expedition to Egypt, a bloody conflict, of uncertain utility, nevertheless allowed Egypt to open out to the world and to begin the exchanges with Europe that were to develop throughout the 19th century.

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