He was born at the Château de Villiers, near Mantes-la-Ville. After studying at the École Polytechnique, Paris, he was in 1794 the first pupil admitted to the École des Mines. In 1804 he was appointed professor of geology and mineralogy in the École des Mines, which had been temporarily transferred to Pezay in Savoy, and he returned with the school to Paris in 1815. Later on he became inspector general of mines and a member of the Academy of Sciences.
He investigated the transition strata of the Tarantaise, wrote on the position of the granite rocks of Mont Blanc, and on the lead minerals of Derbyshire and Cumberland. He was charged with overseeing the construction of the geological map of France, undertaken by his pupils Dufrénoy and Elie de Beaumont.
His publications include Traité élémentaire de minéralogie (2 vols., 1801–1802; 2nd ed., 1808), and Traité abrégé de cristallographie (Paris, 1818).