Joseph-Michel Montgolfier was a French aviation pioneer and balloonist. Along with his brother Jacques-Étienne, he invented the Montgolfière-style hot air balloon and launched the first confirmed piloted ascent by man in 1783. The first ascent carried Jacques-Étienne. The innovative brothers also invented a process to manufacture transparent paper. Joseph invented the self-acting hydraulic ram as well.
Louis Blériot was a French aviator, engineer, and inventor. He is credited with developing the first workable headlamp for cars. He is also credited with making the first working, piloted monoplane. Blériot achieved worldwide fame in 1909 when he became the first person to fly across the English Channel. Louis Blériot also founded the successful aircraft manufacturing company, Blériot Aéronautique.
One of the best-known French fighter pilots of World War I, Georges Guynemer reportedly shot 54 enemy planes. Awarded with honors such as the Légion d'honneur and the Médaille militaire, he was a national hero. He went MIA and was later declared dead after he failed to return from a combat mission in 1917.
French aviator René Fonck is remembered for shooting down 75 planes during World War I and was considered one of the Allied Ace of Aces. He not only received the Médaille Militaire but was also made Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur. He later became a demonstration and racing pilot and a military aviation inspector.
French ace pilot Charles Nungesser scored 43 combat victories during World War I. Starting his career as a mechanic in Argentina, he soon became a racer and then stepped into aviation. Nicknamed the Knight of Death, he disappeared while trying to complete the world’s first non-stop transatlantic flight from Paris to New York.
French race car driver Olivier Chandon de Brailles and Moët et Chandon Champagne heir. Apart from race car driving, he also excelled in sky diving and martial arts. He died by drowning in a canal after a horrific car crash during a practice race at age 27.
Refused entry in the Tour de France because she was a woman, French athlete Marie Marvingt finished the course by herself. An aviator and mountaineer, too, she later made many sporting records. She was the first female fighter pilot. She had also been a journalist, a medical officer, and a ski school instructor.
Birdman Leo Valentin was a French adventurer who became the first person to fly with wooden wings attached to his arms, back in the 1950s. He began his career as a parachute instructor with the French army. He died due to a failed flying stunt during an air show in Liverpool.
Henri Farman was an Anglo-French aviator and aircraft designer. Along with his brothers Maurice Farman and Richard, he also manufactured aircraft. As a young man, he was very passionate about cycle racing and motor racing. He eventually ventured into aviation and used his aircraft to set many official records. He later opened a flying school.
British-French motor racer, aviator, and aircraft manufacturer Maurice Farman was also a champion in tandem cycling. He and his brother, Henri, completed the world’s first circular flight of over 1km. He also made pioneering studies in aerial radiotelephony, while his company introduced the world’s first long-distance passenger plane, Goliath.
Initially a math teacher at a private school, US academic, engineer, and inventor Edith Clark later became the US’s first professional female electrical engineer and first female professor of electrical engineering. In 1926, she became the world’s first woman to present a paper at the American Institute of Electrical Engineers.