Samuel Bochart (1599-1667)

A Protestant Minister and a very great scholar, he was born in Rouen and settled in Caen as early as 1628 following very brilliant studies crowned by three theses in Sedan, Saumur and Leyden and a stay in Enpland after 1621 (Oxford).

He was capable of composing 44 Greek verse lines before the age of 14. He knew 17 languages beside French to wit: Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Spanish, English, German, Flemish, Celtic, Arabic, - for which he compiled a 30 000 word dictionary- Coptic, Egyptian, Ethiopic, Phoenician, Chaldaean, Syriac and Persian.

In 1628 a public controversy pitted him against the JesuitVeron.

In 1646 he published ".Geographia Sacra" a work of an outstanding scholarship on the early ages of the world which earned him great repute, to such an extent, that Queen Christina of Sweden invited him to her court in 1652; he accepted and went accompanied by the young P-D. Huet.

From Sweden, he brought back the great book on the life of animals by Al Demiri which, later on, helped him complete his famous work: "Hierozoïcon";the history of all the animals mentioned in the Bible, which was published in 1663, the result of a thirty-years' labour.

He fulfilled his pastoral duties sometimes in association with his friend Etienne Morin who was also an Academician, and represented the Protestants at the Synod of Loudun in 1659. He wrote an Epistle on Episcopacy and Regal Authority in 1660. In 1662 he published " De consiliandis in regilionis negocio protestantibus" and the following year a dissertation on whether Aeneas landed in Italy.

Samuel Bochart's demise can be called spectacular collapsing as he did in the arms of Moisant de Brieux during a sitting of the Acaderny on 16 May 1667 whilst he was having an argument with P-D.Huet with whom he had fallen out - he had taken him to task for having made an inaccurate copy of one of Origen's manuscripts about transsubstantiation - His dying 'in harness', so to speak, stirred the contemporaries to a chorus of eulogy:
"He was as modest as learned ... two qualities almost incompatible." (Bayle)
" The archetype of the Scholar; a mind endowed with divine genius" (Casaubon).
" A miracle for his Age" (Fabritius).
Even Huet proffered the following judgement:
" His Age and even the Ages before have known few people. whose learning could be compared to his."

Moisant de Brieux gave us the French translation of the Latin epitaph he composed for his friend :

"Comme l'on vit, l'on meurt; ainsi la providence
 A son gré, des mortels détermine le sort
Chez les Muses Bochart vécut dés son enfance
Bochart entre leurs bras devait trouver la mort..."

"One dies as one lives; so Providence
Of Mortals decides the Fate as she wishes
Bochart spent his childhood among the Muses
And was to meet Death in their arms."

Wen he died, he had planned to translate the Koran into Latin with annotations, to study the vegetable kingdom in the Bible, to write a treatise on Paradise (Eden). He was buried in Cormelles in a grove adjoining his son-in-law's house. His library, including in particular a number of books annotated in his own hand, ,was to be donated to the University of Caen by his great-grandson, Guillaume Lesueur de Colleville.

Samuel Bochart