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His friends

Jean-Jacques Ampère
« He was a man of spirit and, what is more important, a man of great heart, pleasant to be with and always trustworthy. His benevolence disposed him to love. His conversation, varied, witty, amusing, but never mean, made him easy to like. »
(A. de Tocqueville, Souvenirs)

Jean-Jacques Ampère was one of Tocqueville's most loyal friends, as well as one of his favorite "conversation instruments". Both of them, children of the 19th century, were insatiably curious, and belonged to the line of great voyagers, who saw travel as a means of acquiring understanding.
He was born on August 12, 1800 to the famous physicist André-Marie AmpèreAndré-Marie Ampère
(1775 - 1836)

French physicist, mathematician, and chemist, discoverer of electromagnetism. From Ampère's name we get our unit of electric current, the ampere.
and Julie Carron, who died of tuberculosis when he was only four. After very successful studies in Lyon, he joined his father at his laboratory in Paris, where Ampère senior was carrying out brilliant research and teaching geophysics. But his son refused to follow him in a scientific career, and was equally uninterested in politics, favoring history, literature and travel instead. His first expeditions took him to the Nordic countries, where he explored their literature in situ, as well as their behavior and customs. An inveterate researcher, he traveled the four corners of the globe, visiting Europe, the East, and America, constantly seeking out the hidden connections that tied language and literature to civilization.

« No one was wittier, or more likable for his wit, than Ampère, whose temperament was as free as a bird's and whose character was adaptable enough that he could, for a time, not only adopt any life style but do so with joy and revel in it. »
(Letter to Francisque de Corcelle,
October 2, 1854)

Back in France, he taught literature and wrote a number of books, the most well-known of which include L'histoire romaine à Rome, Dante et son ouvre and a Histoire littéraire de la France avant le XIIe siècle. His energy, spirit, encyclopedic knowledge, and great curiosity also made him a regular visitor to some of the most exclusive Paris salons. There he met Chateaubriand, Paul de NoaillesPaul de Noailles
(1802-1885)

Friend and confidant of Chateaubriand, whom he sought to succeed in the Académie Française with the support of Madame de Récamier
and Madame de RécamierJuliette Récamier
(1777-1849)

A leading figure in Parisian society after the Revolution, her salons were widely renowned. She received the most illustrious figures of the nineteenth century and had a legendarily passionate affair with Chateaubriand.
. It was in Madame de Récamier's salon that he met Alexis de Tocqueville in 1835. From then on, he became a regular guest at the chateau de Tocqueville, where a bedroom in one of the towers, the "Ampère room", was reserved just for him. The two men remained faithful friends, exchanging letters and meeting in person to continue their discussions. This was the case in the winter of 1850, when Ampère, who two years earlier had been elected to the Académie Française, joined his friend at Sorrente, to Tocqueville's great delight. He died in Pau on March 27, 1864.

Photographic portrait of Jean-Jacques Ampère, Adam Salomon; Département des Estampes © BNF

Photographic portrait of Jean-Jacques Ampère, Adam Salomon; Département des Estampes
© BNF

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