Monday, February 27, 2017

Déodat de Dolomieu and the Dolomites

Déodat de Dolomieu

"Déodat de Dolomieu (1750–1801) was a French adventurer, savant, and geologist. The son of the marquis de Dolomieu, he was born in the mountainous Dauphiné region of France.

He made a fateful choice by joining the order of the Knights of Malta at age twelve. When he was eighteen, he killed a fellow member of the Order of St. John in a duel.

As a young man, he journeyed through the Tyrollean Alps in what is now northeastern Italy. There he
observed a curious type of rock that bore a resemblance to limestone but did not effervesce in light acid. In 1791, he published a scholarly account of his findings about the rock, which came to be known as dolomite.
Napoleon Bust
Musée de l'Armée, Paris, France
Dolomieu at first embraced the principles of the French Revolution in 1789, until the Reign of Terror began killing many of his friends. He then became an ardent supporter of Napoleon.

In 1799, he was one of the savants that accompanied Napoleon on his invasion of Egypt. On the way to Egypt, Napoleon stopped and sacked the Island of Malta, which had been ruled for centuries by the Knights of St. John. Dolomieu was befriended there by Thomas-Alexandre Dumas de la Pailleterie, a French officer and the mixed-race father of the famous author Alexandre Dumas.

Both Dolomieu and Dumas were captured in 1799 by the Knights of Malta and imprisoned in a fortress in Taranto, on the “heel” of Italy. Dolomieu was held in solitary confinement for twenty-one months, in spite of the protests of the international “republic of letters.”

While in prison, Dolomieu carved a wooden pen and fashioned ink from lamp smoke. He wrote a treatise titled Mineralogical Philosophy, which became a seminal work in geology.
Edmond Dantès and Abbé Faria Chateau D'If, Count of Monte Cristo
The story of Dolomieu would later inspire Alexandre Dumas when he created the character of Abbé Faria in his novel The Count of Monte Cristo. After tunneling through the rocks of the prison at Chateau d’If in an attempt to escape, Abbé Faria wound up in the cell of the wrongfully imprisoned Edmond Dantès. The polymath Faria becomes friend and mentor to Dantès. Faria even writes notes using his own blood for ink. Faria also tells Dantès about a fabulous treasure that is, as Bogart might have put it, “the stuff that dreams are made of.” After winning the Battle of Marengo against the Austrians in 1801, Napoleon insisted on the release of Dolomieu as a condition for the peace that followed. Dolomieu died shortly after his release, a broken man.

Dolomites, Italy
The region of the Dolomites in Northern Italy is a legacy of Dolomieu."

An excerpt from An Adventure in 1914.

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An Adventure in 1914

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