Constantin Francois Chasselxenf Volney, count de, a French author, born at Craon in Anjou, Feb. 3, 1757, died in Paris, April 25, 1820. His family name was Chassebceuf, but his father gave him that of Boisgirais, which he himself changed to Volney. A large fortune inherited from his mother was increased in 1781 by a considerable legacy, and, after studying medicine and oriental languages in Paris, he spent several years in Egypt and Syria, and several months in a convent of the Lebanon. After his return he was appointed director general of agriculture and commerce in Corsica. In 1789 he was elected to the states general for Anjou, and at the close of the constituent assembly in 1791 returned to Corsica, where he became acquainted with Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1793-'4 he was imprisoned for ten months as a Girondist, and in 1794 was appointed professor of history in the normal school. In 1795 he went to the United States, where he had a controversy with Priestley in regard to his Work Les ruines, and his answer to Priestley's pamphlet on infidelity appeared in an English translation (Philadelphia, 1797). In 1798 he returned to France. He accepted the revolution of the 18th Brumaire as an antidote against anarchy, and was appointed a senator, but declined the ministry of the interior.
On the establishment of the empire he withdrew from the senate, but his resignation was not accepted. Napoleon made him a count in 1808, and Louis XVIII. a peer in June, 1814. His works include Sur la chronologie d'Herodote (Paris, 1781); Voyage en Egypte et en Syrie (2 vols., 1787; English translation, London, 1787); Les mines, ou meditations sur les revolutions des empires (1791, often reprinted; English translation, New York, 1796; London, 1827, comprising a translation of La loi naturelle), in which he first avowed those infidel opinions for which he is now chiefly known; Lecons d'hiistoire (1799; new ed.
1822); Tableau du climat et du sol des EtatsUnis d'Amerique (2 vols., 1803; translated by 0. B. Brown, Philadelphia, 1804); Recherclies nouvelles sur l'histoire ancienne (3 vols., revised and enlarged ed., 1814-'15; translated by Ool. Corbet, 2 vols., London, 1819); L' alphabet europeen applique aux langues asiatiques (1819); and Histoire de Samuel, inventeur du mere des rois (1819). His complete works (8 vols., Paris, 1820-'26) were edited by Ad. Bossange, with a biography. A select edition appeared in 1846. - See Etudes sur Volney, by Eugene Berger (Paris, 1852).