Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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DOUVILLE, Jean Baptiste, French naturalist, born in Hanbie, France, 15 February 1794; disappeared in South America about 1833. He traveled in Europe, South America, and Asia, landing at Genoa on his return in 1824. In 1826 he went to Paris, where he was made a member of the geographical society, and then sailed for Buenos Ayres. The River La Plata was at that time under blockade by the Brazilians, and the French vessel was captured while endeavoring to break the blockade; but Douville was befriended by the Brazilian admiral, and sent to Buenos Ayres, where, finding his resources nearly exhausted, he attempted to replenish them by mercantile operations. Accused of some fraudulent transactions of which he was acquitted, he left Buenos Ayres in disgust, and went to Rio Janeiro in August 1827. A few weeks later he embarked for Congo, whence he returned to France in 1831.
The stories of his discoveries in several kingdoms hitherto almost unknown to Europeans, and of his exploration of the Congo, or Zaire, and other rivers, aroused great enthusiasm among the Parisians. He received a medal from the geographical society; his researches were published under the title of "Voyage au Congo et dans l'Afrique 6quinoxiale" (4 vols., with a map, Paris, 1832), and his book and chart were used as the basis of subsequent maps of Africa. But the evident exaggerations of some of his statements soon awakened suspicion. The "Foreign Quarterly Review" assailed him as an impostor, and a few weeks later his deceptions were more fully exposed in the " Revue des deux mondes." To cover his shame by real discoveries, he sailed for Brazil in 1833, and penetrated to the interior of South America by the Amazon, where, according to an uncertain report, he was killed. Recent discoveries in Africa prove the truth of the accusation against him, although it is supposed that he reached the interior of that country, or at least that he obtained his information from Portuguese documents before unpublished ;. and some geographers of repute still credit a portion of his narrative.
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