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.
Samuel de Champlain was a French colonist, navigator, draftsman, soldier, and explorer who made between 21 and 29 trips across the Atlantic Ocean. He founded Quebec and New France and is considered an important figure in Canadian history. He is also referred to as the "Father of New France." As a businessman, he founded many trading companies.
Jean-Michel Cousteau is a French environmentalist, oceanographic explorer, film producer, and educator. He is also an ardent advocate of a world without nuclear weapons. Cousteau is also credited with founding an education organization and marine conservation called Ocean Futures Society. Inspired by his documentary Voyage to Kure, President George W. Bush took measures to safeguard the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
Jesuit missionary explorer Jacques Marquette is best remembered for his journey to the Mississippi River with Louis Jolliet, which led to the first accurate documentation of the course. While attempting a communication with the Illinois Indians, he died at the mouth of Père Marquette at age 37.
Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac was a French adventurer and explorer. He is credited with founding Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit, which later became the famous city of Detroit. The famous car brand Cadillac was named in Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac's honor.
Alexandra David-Néel was a Belgian–French explorer, anarchist, spiritualist, Buddhist, writer, and opera singer. She is best remembered for traveling to important spiritual centers, including Lhasa, Tibet in 1924, when foreigners were forbidden from entering Lhasa. Alexandra David-Néel wrote more than 30 books and her teachings influenced people like Allen Ginsberg, Benjamin Crème, Jack Kerouac, Ram Dass, and Alan Watts.
Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse served the French Navy for over three- decades and participated in several wars including Seven Years' War and American Revolutionary War. He was inducted to lead a scientific expedition across the world which saw him sailing to places like Chile, California, Japan, Russia, and Australia, before his ships wrecked on reefs of Vanikoro island.
Charles de Foucauld was a cavalry officer in the French Army in the late 19th century. He later became an explorer and geographer, eventually adopting the life of a hermit and a Catholic priest. He was assassinated in 1916 and is listed as a martyr in the liturgy of the Catholic Church.
Louis Antoine de Bougainville was a French explorer and admiral. He is best remembered for his scientific expeditions, including his 1763 circumnavigation of the globe and expeditions into the Pacific Ocean. Louis Antoine de Bougainville also participated in the Seven Years' War and the American Revolutionary War.
Jeanne Baret is recognized as the first woman who circumnavigated the globe through maritime-transport. She did so disguised as a man called Jean Baret and joining expedition of French admiral and explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville, according to whose account Baret was an expert botanist. She enlisted herself as valet and assistant of French naturalist Philibert Commerson for the expedition.
Born into an Italian noble family, Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza had had his first taste of exploration when he traveled to Algeria aboard a ship in his early days. He later explored Africa, eventually founding French Congo, now the Republic of Congo, and the city Brazzaville, while also becoming a French citizen.
William of Rubruck was a Flemish explorer and Franciscan missionary. He is best remembered for his travels to the Central Asia and Middle East in the 13th century. William's account of his travels is counted among the masterpieces of travel literature during the medieval period. His works have drawn comparisons to that of Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo.
Maurice Herzog was a French administrator and mountaineer. He is best remembered for leading the French Annapurna expedition in 1950, which scaled the Annapurna peak of over 8000m for the first time. Maurice Herzog reached the peak along with Louis Lachenal and wrote a best-selling book titled Annapurna after his return.
Jean Ribault was a French navigator and naval officer. He is best remembered for colonizing what would eventually become the American Southeast. Jean Ribault also played an important role in the attempts of the French to colonize Florida.
Jean Raspail was a French author, traveler, and explorer. As a young man, he led many treks, including a Tierra del Fuego–Alaska car trek. He wrote extensively on historical figures and indigenous people. His best-known work is the novel The Camp of the Saints. He was honored with the Jean Walter Prize for his entire body of work.
Pierre-Esprit Radisson was a French fur trader and explorer who undertook many adventures with his brother-in-law Médard des Groseilliers. As a young man, he was captured and tortured by the Iroquois though he later managed to escape. He eventually became a successful fur trader and also embarked on several missionary expeditions. The town of Radisson, Quebec is named after him.
Jules Dumont d'Urville was a French naval officer and explorer best remembered for exploring the western and south Pacific, New Zealand, Australia, and Antarctica. Jules Dumont d'Urville was also a cartographer and botanist; he is credited with naming several plants, seaweeds, and shrubs.
Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville was a soldier and ship captain. Also a daredevil explorer, he led the Hudson Bay expedition in 1686 and played a pivotal part in the capture of the fort at Moose Factory. He founded the French colony of Louisiana in New France. As a member of Compagnies Franches de la Marine, he fought in many wars.
Jean Nicolet was a French trader best remembered for exploring Green Bay, Mackinac Island, and Lake Michigan. He was the first European to explore the present-day Wisconsin. Many public places in Wisconsin and Quebec are named in his honor.
Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye was a French Canadian military officer and fur trader. Along with his four sons, he explored the area west of Lake Superior and established trading posts there. The family also helped in the process of adding Western Canada to the original New France territory. He was awarded the Order of Saint Louis.
French naturalist, geographer, and mathematician Charles Marie de La Condamine is remembered for completing the first known scientific exploration of the Amazon region and also created the first map of the region. He was also part of an expedition that measured a latitude at the equator.
French naturalist and explorer Henri Mouhot started his career as a professor of philology and travelled throughout Europe. With the help of British academic societies, he went on a mission to Indochina. He is best known for informing the Western world of the ruins of Angkor.
The son of Neapolitan financier Lorenzo de Tonti, Henri de Tonti was a fearless officer of the French army but lost his right hand in battle. He is also remembered as a passionate explorer who helped in the North American colonization campaigns, sailing along Illinois and Mississippi.
A professor at Paris’s National Museum of Natural History, French naturalist Théodore Monod founded the cultural institute IFAN in Senegal. He spent a huge chunk of his life studying natural life in the Sahara and had several plant, insect, crustaceans, and fish species named after him.
Jean-François Roberval was a French officer and adventurer. Jean-François, who started his career as a soldier, went on to be appointed by Francis I as viceroy of Canada. Jean-François Roberval is best remembered for leading the first French colonial attempt during the 16th century in the Saint Laurent valley.