Institut d'Égypte

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The building during restoration work

The Institut d’Égypte was a learned academy formed by Napoleon Bonaparte to carry out research during his Egyptian campaign.

Early work[edit]

It first met on 24 August 1798, with Gaspard Monge as president, Bonaparte himself as vice-president and Joseph Fourier and Costaz as secretaries. It had 48 scholars and as with the Institut de France these were organised into sections, divided up as follows:

The Institut capitalised on the work of scholars and technical experts of the Commission des Sciences et des Arts and fostered the development of Egypt so as to support the French expeditionary force. On 22 November 1799 the Institut took the decision to collect and publish its scholarly work as the Description de l'Égypte. The Institut lasted until its 47th and final meeting on 21 March 1801.

Resumption of activities[edit]

The Institut d'Égypte's activities resumed in 1836 under the name of The Egyptian Society. The work was carried out by French, German and English scholars. It was transferred to Alexandria in 1859, and its name was again changed, this time to Institut Égyptien. The new Institut functioned under the auspices of Egypt's viceroy Sa'id Pasha, and had several prominent members, notably the German botanist Georg August Schweinfurth, as well as Egyptologists Auguste Mariette and Gaston Maspero. Later members included Ahmed Kamal, Egypt's first native Egyptologist, as well as Ahmad Zaki Pasha, a pioneering philologist.[1]

The Institut returned to Cairo in 1880. Its previous name was restored by a royal decree in 1918. Henceforth, it was directly under the Royal Palace's auspices. Some of the Institut's more recent members include famed scholar Taha Hussein.[1]


The Institut was burnt out on 17 December 2011 as part of the Egyptian revolution that started in January 2011.[2][3] Protesters were engaged in an exchange of missiles outside the Shura Council building nearby. A Molotov cocktail thrown by a protester went through one of the windows of the Institut accidentally or deliberately. The firemen arrived very late because of anarchic conditions on the streets. Protesters and soldiers rushed into the burning building and brought 30-40,000 works out to safety. Lost, however, were the Atlas of Lower and Upper Egypt (1752), the Atlas Handler (1842), the Atlas of the Old Indian Arts and many other important works. Before the blaze, the repository had held over 200,000 antique texts, many dating from the Bonaparte era.

It was incorrectly reported that the original manuscript of the 20-volume Description de l'Égypte (1809–29) was destroyed during these events. The majority of the original manuscript material for the Description resides in Paris' National Archives and National Library.


Sheikh Sultan al Qassimi, governor of the Emirate of Sharjah, has promised to pay for the reconstruction of the building and to donate some of his own rare possessions to it. Other works that might be made available include the various copies of the Description in other countries.


  • (French) article by Francine Masson, director of the library of the École des mines, ABC Mines review (December 1997).
  • (French) Jean et Nicole Dhombres, Naissance d'un nouveau pouvoir: science et savants en France, 1793-1824 (Payot 1989)
  1. ^ a b "Historical Background". L'Institut d'Égypte. Archived from the original on 2004-04-10. Retrieved 2009-02-14. 
  2. ^ "Amid army crackdown, Egypt’s richest library set on fire". Egypt Independent. 17 December 2011. Retrieved 11 March 2012. 
  3. ^ Jonathan Downs (March 2012). "Calamity in Cairo". History Today 62: 5–6. Retrieved 11 March 2012. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 30°02′32″N 31°14′09″E / 30.042164°N 31.235928°E / 30.042164; 31.235928