1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lenormant, François

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LENORMANT, FRANÇOIS (1837-1883), French Assyriologist and archaeologist, was born in Paris on the 17th of January 1837. His father, Charles Lenormant, distinguished as, an archaeologist, numismatist and Egyptologist, was anxious that his son should follow in his steps. He made him begin Greek at the age of six, and the child responded so well to this precocious scheme of instruction, that when he was only fourteen an essay of his, on the Greek tablets found at Memphis, appeared in the Revue archéologique. In 1856 he won the numismatic prize of the Académie des Inscriptions with an essay entitled Classification des monnaies des Lagides. In 1862 he became sub-librarian of the Institute. In 1859 he accompanied his father on a journey of exploration to Greece, during which Charles Lenormant succumbed to fever at Athens (24th November). Lenormant returned to Greece three' times during the next six years, and gave up all the time he could spare from his official work to archaeological research. These peaceful labours were rudely interrupted by the war of 1870, when Lenormant served with the army and was wounded in the siege of Paris. In 1874 he was appointed professor of archaeology at the National Library, and in the following year he collaborated with Baron de Witte in founding the Gazette archéologique. As early as 1867 he had turned his attention to Assyrian studies; he was among the first to recognize in the cuneiform inscriptions the existence of a non-Semitic language, now known as Accadian. Lenormant's knowledge was of encyclopaedic extent, ranging over an immense number of subjects, and at the same time thorough, though somewhat lacking perhaps in the, strict accuracy of the modern school. Most of his varied studies were directed towards tracing the origins of the two great civilizations of the ancient world, which were to be sought in Mesopotamia and on the shores of the Mediterranean. He had a perfect passion for exploration. Besides his early expeditions to Greece, he visited the south of Italy three times with this object, and it was while exploring in Calabria that he met with an accident which ended fatally in Paris on the 9th of December 1883, after a long illness. The amount and variety of Lenormant's work is truly amazing when it is remembered that he died at the early age of forty-six. Probably the best known of his books are Les Origiues de l'histoire d'après la Bible, and his ancient history of the East and account of Chaldean magic. For breadth of view, combined with extraordinary subtlety of intuition, he was probably unrivalled.