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He was born in Saint-Vincent-de-Mercuze near Grenoble, France, and graduated from the École Polytechnique. He joined the navy and served in the Crimean War, then took up a post in Indochina in the hope that the climate would help his chronically ulcerated throat. It did not, and throughout the Mekong expedition he was often in severe pain.
The expedition left Saigon on June 5, 1866. In addition to his ulcers, Doudart de Lagrée suffered from fever, amoebic dysentery and infected wounds caused by leeches, as the expeditioners had to walk barefoot once they had worn out their supply of shoes. By the time the expedition reached Dongchuan, in Yunnan, China, he was too sick to be moved, and his second-in-command Francis Garnier took command. Garnier led the expedition to Dali, leaving Doudart de Lagrée in the care of the doctor. He died from an abscess on his liver. The doctor removed his heart to return it to France, while Doudart de Lagrée was buried in Dongchuan.
Choisi pour ses talents de dessinateur, Delaporte accompagne la Mission Doudart de Lagrée explorant le cours du Mekong.
Ce marin est aussi un passionné d’archéologie. Le Cambodge lui doit beaucoup pour ses recherches sur l’art khmer. Le 5 juin 1866, Doudart de Lagrée quitte Saigon, à la tête d’une expédition qui doit remonter le Mékong. Elle est de retour le 19 juin 1868. La mission fut un succès, mais le capitaine de frégate Ernest Doudart de Lagrée était décédé le 12 Mars à Tong-Tchouen en Chine terrassé par la maladie.
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