Celebrated French classics scholar dies

Sun Dec 19, 2010 11:39am EST
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PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Noted French classics scholar Jacqueline de Romilly, who was only the second woman to be elected to the prestigious Academie Francaise, has died at the age of 97, the government said Sunday.

Romilly was named to the Academie Francaise in 1989, following in the footsteps of writer Marguerite Yourcenar at the elite institute that has acted as the guardian of the French language since its founding in 1635.

Previously Romilly was the first woman to be named to the College de France, where many of France's most distinguished academics lecture.

Born in 1913, she won top honors for her knowledge of ancient Greek and Latin in a national competition when she was 17, the first year girls were allowed to take part.

She earned a doctorate in 1947 and went on to write scores of papers and books during an academic career that spanned six decades.

Her death triggered an outpouring of tributes from the French political class, with President Nicolas Sarkozy hailing her as "great humanist whose words we will miss."

"Jacqueline de Romilly contributed equally to the intellectual development of younger generations, the instruction of the general public with her many works and to women's liberation with the example she set," Sarkozy's office said in a statement.

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; editing by Philippa Fletcher)