Alexander Grothendieck was a 20th-century mathematician who was a leading figure in the creation of modern algebraic geometry. With his so-called "relative" perspective, he revolutionized many areas of pure mathematics. During his later career, he became a professor at the University of Montpellier. He is counted among the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century.
Jacques Cousteau was a French explorer, naval officer, filmmaker, conservationist, scientist, photographer, researcher, and author. Renowned for his exploration of various forms of life in water, Jacques Cousteau is credited with pioneering marine conservation and co-developing the Aqua-Lung, the first underwater breathing apparatus to achieve popularity and commercial success.
Marie Curie and Pierre Curie’s daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, herself a brilliant scientist, won the 1935 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, along with her husband, Joliot-Curie, for discovering artificial radioactivity. She was also one of the first three female French government members. She tragically died of leukemia caused by exposure to radiation.
French virologist Luc Montagnier is known for discovering the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which led him to jointly receive the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Montagnier also made headlines promoting controversial and unverified claims related to vaccinations, homeopathy and COVID-19 pandemic, which he argued as man-made and possibly a result of an attempt to create an HIV/AIDS vaccine.
French paleontologist and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is remembered as someone who deviated from theology to science. He discovered the fossilized remains known as the Peking man in China, but faced a lot of opposition from his religious superiors when it came to publishing his scientific thoughts.
French composer and organist Olivier Messiaen is credited with creating melodically innovative scores, using what he called "modes of limited transposition." An ornithologist, too, he added bird songs into his compositions such as La fauvette des jardins and Catalogue d'oiseaux. His Messiaen: Concert A Quatre won a Grammy.
Fields Medal-winning French politician and mathematician Cédric Villani works mainly on mathematical physics, partial differential equations and Riemannian geometry. He serves as Member of the National Assembly for Essonne's 5th constituency, after being elected during the 2017 legislative election. He was a member of La République En Marche! but defected later to form the political party Ecology, Democracy, Solidarity.
Frédéric Joliot-Curie was a French physicist whose discovery of artificial radioactivity earned him the 1935 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, which was jointly awarded to Frédéric and his wife Irène Joliot-Curie. Along with his wife, Frédéric is credited with founding the Orsay Faculty of Sciences, a physics and mathematics school within Paris-Saclay University. He had also won the Stalin Peace Prize.
Pierre Joliot is a French biologist best known for his research work at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). From 1985 to 1986, he served as the scientific advisor to the then prime minister of France.
Matthieu Ricard is a French photographer, writer, translator, and Buddhist monk. He serves as a board member of the popular not-for-profit organization Mind and Life Institute. After having received a Ph.D. degree from the Pasteur Institute, Ricard gave up his scientific career to practice Tibetan Buddhism. He is also the co-founder of another international non-profit organization, Karuna-Shechen.
French mathematician Andre Weil, who was also the brother of philosopher Simone Weil, is best known for his contribution to algebraic geometry. He also co-founded the Bourbaki group, consisting of mathematicians who collectively wrote using the pseudonym Nicolas Bourbaki. Weil took a keen interest in Hinduism and also learned Sanskrit.
French nuclear-physicist Hélène Langevin-Joliot comes from the distinguished Curie family, which includes five Nobel Laureates, including her maternal-grandparents Marie and Pierre Curie, her parents Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie, and her maternal uncle-in-law Henry Labouisse. Hélène serves as a director of research at CNRS and as professor of nuclear physics at the Institute of Nuclear Physics at the University of Paris.
Jacques Vallée is a French computer scientist, Internet pioneer, venture capitalist, astronomer, ufologist, and author. Vallée is credited with co-developing the first computerized map of Mars, which was used by NASA in the 1960s. An influential personality in the study of UFOs, Jacques Vallée has promoted such hypothesis as the interdimensional hypothesis.
Belgian-born French mathematician Jacques Tits was the son of a mathematician and professor and grew up to develop the geometric coding of the algebraic structure of linear groups through Tits buildings. He has won scores of awards, including the prestigious Wolf Prize and the Abel Prize.
Along with his brother, Marcel Schlumberger, Conrad Schlumberger formed one of the most well-known geophysicist duos of Germany. A pioneer in petroleum production, he co-established Schlumberger Ltd., one of the world’s largest oil-field service companies, with Marcel. Their technique of oil exploration offered a cheap alternative than the existing coring methods.
French astronomer Camille Flammarion began his career as a human computer at the Paris Observatory at 16. He believed intelligent beings from Mars had tried to communicate with people on Earth in the past. He also published L'Astronomie and penned sci-fi novels such as Omega: The Last Days of the World.
Françoise Barré-Sinoussi is a French virologist best known for her work that identified the human immunodeficiency virus as the cause of AIDS. Barré-Sinoussi's groundbreaking work earned her the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2008. An important virologist, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi has also received many other awards, including the Sovac Prize and the Körber European Science Prize.
Jean-Henri Fabre was a French entomologist, naturalist, teacher, chemist, physicist, botanist, and author. He is best remembered for his study of insects; Fabre is widely regarded as the father of modern entomology. He is also remembered for his interesting literary work on the lives of insects. Jean-Henri Fabre's life and career inspired the 1951 biographical movie Monsieur Fabre.
Born to Jewish parents in Algeria, Nobel Prize-winning French physicist Claude Cohen-Tannoudji later moved to Paris. Best known for his research on using laser light to cool atoms to low temperatures at which they can be studied better, he now works at the École Normale Supérieure.
Jacques Monod was a French biochemist known for his collaborative work with biologist François Jacob and microbiologist André Lwoff on the genetic control of enzyme and virus synthesis. The three men were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1965. Monod is also widely regarded as one of the founders of molecular biology.
Nobel Prize-winning French biologist François Jacob is remembered for his discovery of operons, or regulator genes, with Jacques Monod. He had also been part of the French army during World War II. Though initially interested in physics and math, he later took up medicine to avoid a strict regime.
Nobel Prize-winning French chemist Jean-Pierre Sauvage is currently associated with Strasbourg University. He has gained recognition for his research on supramolecular and coordination chemistry, and for creating molecular chains, such as catenane, that mimic the mechanical functions by changing their nature in response to external cues.
Brigitte Boisselier leads Clonaid, a company focused on human cloning research. She is also a leader of the quasi-religious Raëlism movement, which believes humans were created by aliens. Although she once announced that Clonaid had successfully cloned a human child, the legal questions surrounding it later silenced her.
Jean Baptiste Perrin was a French physicist who won the prestigious Nobel Prize for Physics in 1926. He is credited with confirming the atomic nature of matter. Jean Baptiste Perrin also served as a professor at the University of Paris for many years.
Noted for his view that every physical theory should be derivable from thermodynamic first principles, French theoretical physicist Pierre Duhem was also an eminent historian and philosopher of science, producing groundbreaking work in medieval science. Equally known for his work on relation between theory and experiments, he also established that it is impossible to test a scientific hypothesis in isolation.
Georges Charpak was a physicist whose invention and development of the multiwire proportional chamber earned him the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physics in 1992. He is also credited with co-founding several companies, including SuperSonic Imagine and Molecular Engines Laboratories. Over the course of his illustrious career, Georges Charpak was also honored with other awards, such as the Golden Plate Award.
Pierre-Gilles de Gennes was a French physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1991. In the initial years of his career, he worked mainly on neutron scattering and magnetism. In his later years, he worked on liquid crystals, interfacial problems, and granular materials. Besides the Nobel Prize, he was also the recipient of the prestigious Lorentz Medal.
French engineer and inventor Georges Claude was often referred as the Edison of France. He is most noted for inventing and commercializing neon lighting and having a near monopoly on the new technology, for conducting an experiment to generate thermal energy of the ocean and building the first Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) plant, and for the Claude cycle.