Famous French Inventors & Discoverers

Imagine life without French inventions and discoveries – you wouldn’t have mayonnaise in your sandwiches, no champagne for celebrations, no bicycle for that pollution-free ride, no aqualung for that intriguing underwater experience, no batteries for your electronic gadgets, no hot air ballooning for your holidays, no life-saver parachutes for that untimed mishaps or even adrenaline-rushing skydiving, no sewing machine for those designer outfits and no pencil and no pencil sharpener for those childhood learning. Almost intolerable, isn’t it? That is the kind of influence French inventors and discoverers have casted on the world through their inventions and discoveries. And if you think that the aforementioned are the only inventions made by French inventors, you definitely have been living under the rock all these years, for France has been the heart of major inventions of the world. Be it in the field of art and entertainment or science and technology, transportation and clothing or food and cooking and even weapons, communications, computers and sports, French discoverers and inventors have made their worth count in all. Through their research and findings, they have enriched our lives and helped us make advancements and developments to the society. With this segment, find out in details about the life and inventions of some of the most talented French inventors and discoverers.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Louis Braille

Louis Braille
5
Famous As: Inventor of Braille
Birthdate: January 4, 1809
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Coupvray
Died: January 6, 1852
A 3-year-old Louis Braille accidentally injured himself in the eye while playing with a tool at his father’s harness shop. While the child lost his eyesight, his relentless spirit made him create a unique system made of dots and dashes, now known as the Braille, to help the blind read.

 2 Rudolf Diesel

Rudolf Diesel
4
Famous As: Inventor of Diesel Engine
Birthdate: March 18, 1858
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 29, 1913

Rudolf Diesel was a German mechanical engineer and inventor best remembered for inventing the Diesel engine. After Diesel's demise, his engine became an important substitution for the steam piston engine. The engine became widespread in applications, such as agricultural machines, submarines, ships, and trucks. His life inspired the 1942 biographical film Diesel, in which he was played by Willy Birgel.

 3 René Laennec

René Laennec
5
Famous As: Inventor of Stethoscope
Birthdate: February 17, 1781
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Quimper, France
Died: August 13, 1826
Unlike most doctors, French physician René Laennec was also a skilled musician. It was while making his own wooden flutes that he invented the stethoscope, which helped doctors examine the chest cavity through auditory cues. His research also included work on melanoma, cirrhosis, and tuberculosis. He was a dedicated Catholic.
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 4 Nicéphore Niépce

Nicéphore Niépce
3
Famous As: Creator of World's First Permanent Photographic Image
Birthdate: March 7, 1765
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Chalon-sur-Saône
Died: July 5, 1833

Nicéphore Niépce revolutionized science by inventing heliography and made the first permanent photographic image. He had initially been part of Napoleon’s army but had to quit due to his failing health. The Niépce Prize is awarded to a photographer every year in France, in his honor.

 5 Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal
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Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: June 19, 1623
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Clermont-Ferrand, France
Died: August 19, 1662

Blaise Pascal was a French physicist, mathematician, philosopher, and inventor. A child prodigy, Pascal's work on projective geometry, at the age of 16 is commendable. He is one of the earliest inventors of the mechanical calculator, which he did when he was still a teenager. His work on probability theory influenced the development of social science and modern economics.

 6 Louis Daguerre

Louis Daguerre
3
Famous As: Artist
Birthdate: November 18, 1787
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Cormeilles-en-Parisis, France
Died: July 10, 1851
Remembered for his invention of the daguerreotype, or the first process of photography, which could develop pictures in just 20 to 30 minutes, Louis Daguerre had humble beginnings as revenue officer and then an opera scene painter. He was also instrumental in setting up the first diorama theater.

 7 Joseph-Michel Montgolfier

Joseph-Michel Montgolfier
3
Famous As: Aviator
Birthdate: August 26, 1740
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Annonay, France
Died: June 26, 1810

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. 

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 8 Louis Le Prince

Louis Le Prince
3
Famous As: Former inventor of an early motion-picture camera, possibly the first person to shoot a moving picture sequence using a single lens camera
Birthdate: August 28, 1841
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Metz, France
Died: September 16, 1890

Louis Le Prince was a French inventor and artist. He is credited with inventing an early motion-picture camera and is often referred to as the Father of Cinematography. However, Louis Le Prince's work failed to influence the commercial development of motion picture because of the secrecy surrounding his invention.

 9 Joseph Marie Jacquard

Joseph Marie Jacquard
3
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: July 7, 1752
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Lyon, France
Died: August 7, 1834

 10 Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot

Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot
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Famous As: combat engineer
Birthdate: February 26, 1725
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Lorraine
Died: October 2, 1804

Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot was a French inventor best remembered for building the Fardier à vapeur, the world's first automobile. Fardier à vapeur was the first working self-propelled mechanical land-vehicle. Built in 1769, the vehicle accidentally knocked down a stone or brick wall in 1771, an incident which is widely regarded as the first known automobile accident in the world.

 11 Marcel Dassault

Marcel Dassault
3
Famous As: Politician, Engineer, Entrepreneur, Aerospace engineer, Inventor, Screenwriter
Birthdate: January 22, 1892
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris
Died: April 18, 1986

Marcel Dassault was a French industrialist and engineer. He played an important role during the First World War when he developed a type of aircraft propeller which was used by the French army. In 1916, he worked with Louis Coroller and Henry Potez to form a company named Société d'Études Aéronautiques in order to manufacture the SEA series of fighters.

 12 Jacques Charles

Jacques Charles
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Famous As: Physicist, Chemist, Inventor, Balloonist, Mathematician
Birthdate: November 12, 1746
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Beaugency
Died: April 7, 1823

Best known for developing the Charles’s law, which explains the expansion of gases when heated, Jacques Charles was a prominent French physicist. He was the first to ascend in a hydrogen-filled gas balloon, thus pioneering hot-air balloon flight. The Académie des Sciences member later became a professor of physics.

 13 Augustin-Jean Fresnel

Augustin-Jean Fresnel
3
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: May 10, 1788
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Broglie (Eure)
Died: July 14, 1827

Augustin-Jean Fresne, best remembered for his pioneering research on the wave theory of light, was a sickly child and was mostly homeschooled in his early days. The French physicist was a civil engineer, too. Unfortunately, most of his scientific work failed to receive public attention during his lifetime.

 14 Franz Reichelt

Franz Reichelt
0
Famous As: Parachuting pioneer
Birthdate: October 16, 1879
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Štětí, Czechia
Died: February 4, 1912

 15 Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais

Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais
3
Famous As: Polymath
Birthdate: January 24, 1732
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 18, 1799

Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais was a French polymath who had worked as a watchmaker, playwright, musician, financier, and diplomat. He was also an inventor and revolutionary. He was much respected in French society and held influence in the court of King Louis XV. He supported American independence and actively participated in the early stages of the 1789 French Revolution. 

 16 Louis Blériot

Louis Blériot
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Famous As: Aviator, Engineer, Inventor, Aerospace engineer
Birthdate: July 1, 1872
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Cambrai
Died: August 2, 1936

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.

 17 Louis Lumière

Louis Lumière
1
Famous As: Inventor of Cinematographer
Birthdate: October 5, 1864
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Besançon, France
Died: June 6, 1948
While Thomas Edison was the first to invent motion pictures for solo viewing, the shares experience of watching a film with others, or cinema, was the brainchild of Louis Lumière. With his cinematograph, Lumière shot the first commercial film, a clip of workers leaving the Lumière photo factory. 

 18 Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville

Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville
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Famous As: Publisher
Birthdate: April 25, 1817
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris
Died: April 26, 1879

 19 Nicolas Appert

Nicolas Appert
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Famous As: confectioner, inventor
Birthdate: November 17, 1749
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Châlons-en-Champagne
Died: June 1, 1841

 20 Claude Chappe

Claude Chappe
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Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: December 25, 1763
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Brûlon, Sarthe, France
Died: January 23, 1805

 21 Étienne Lenoir

Étienne Lenoir
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Famous As: Inventor, Engineer
Birthdate: January 12, 1822
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Luxembourg
Died: August 4, 1900

Étienne Lenoir was a Belgian-French engineer. He is credited with developing the internal combustion engine which was commercialized in sufficient quantities. Lenoir is also credited with inventing such electrical devices as an improved electric telegraph which played a key role during the Franco-Prussian War. 

 22 Jacques de Vaucanson

Jacques de Vaucanson
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Famous As: Inventor, Engineer
Birthdate: February 24, 1709
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Grenoble
Died: November 21, 1782

Jacques de Vaucanson was a French artist and inventor. He is credited with creating impressive and innovative automata. De Vaucanson was also the first inventor to design an automatic loom. His ideas for the automation of the weaving process were later perfected by Joseph Marie Jacquard, who created the Jacquard machine.    

 23 Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
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Famous As: Former Writer best known for writing the epistolary novel Les Liaisons dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons) (1782)
Birthdate: October 18, 1741
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Amiens, France
Died: September 5, 1803

 24 Georges Leclanché

Georges Leclanché
1
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: October 9, 1839
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 14, 1882

Georges Leclanché was a 19th-century French electrical engineer who invented what became known as the Leclanché cell. His invention is considered the forerunner of the modern dry cell battery. He was educated at École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures and had a successful engineering career. He later founded the cells factory "Leclanché-Barbier" with Ernest Barbier. 

 25 Auguste Lumière

Auguste Lumière
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Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: October 19, 1862
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Besançon, France
Died: April 10, 1954

Auguste Lumière was a French engineer, illusionist, industrialist, and biologist. Alongside his brother Louis Jean Lumière, Auguste is credited with inventing a projection device and animated photographic camera called the cinematograph, which attracted worldwide acclaim. He is also remembered for his innovations in military aircraft and his pioneering work in the use of X-rays.

 26 Octave Chanute

Octave Chanute
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Famous As: Civil engineer
Birthdate: February 18, 1832
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: November 23, 1910

Octave Chanute was a French-American aviation pioneer and civil engineer. He is credited with helping budding enthusiasts like the Wright brothers by providing them with help and advice. He also helped publicize their flying experiments. At the time of his death, Octave Chanute was referred to as the father of aviation.

 27 Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier

Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier
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Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: January 6, 1745
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Annonay, France
Died: August 1, 1799

 28 Guillaume Amontons

Guillaume Amontons
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Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: August 31, 1663
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: October 11, 1705

 29 Jean-Pierre Blanchard

Jean-Pierre Blanchard
2
Famous As: Inventor, Balloonist
Birthdate: July 4, 1753
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Les Andelys
Died: March 7, 1809

 30 Charles Bedaux

Charles Bedaux
2
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: October 26, 1886
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: near Paris or Charonton, France
Died: February 18, 1944

Charles Bedaux was a French-American millionaire and production engineer. He is credited with developing the Bedaux System, which decides the amount of money to be paid for a given amount of time. A reliable management consultant, Charles Bedaux worked closely with Nazis and British royalty alike.

 31 Georges Claude

Georges Claude
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Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: September 24, 1870
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 23, 1960

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.  

 32 Levi ben Gershom

Levi ben Gershom
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 1288 AD
Birthplace: Bagnols-sur-Ceze, France
Died: April 20, 1344

 Levi ben Gershon was a medieval French Jewish mathematician, philosopher, astronomer, and Talmudic scholar, famed for his rigid Aristotelianism. A prolific author, he has left several works on mathematical operations, trigonometry, geometry and philosophy, including The Book of the Wars of the Lord. While his bold expression and unconventional thoughts invited criticism, they continued to exert influences till nineteenth century.

 33 André-Jacques Garnerin

André-Jacques Garnerin
2
Famous As: Inventor, Balloonist
Birthdate: January 31, 1769
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris
Died: August 18, 1823

 34 Pierre Vernier

Pierre Vernier
2
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: August 19, 1580
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Ornans, France
Died: September 14, 1637

 35 Nicolas-Jacques Conté

Nicolas-Jacques Conté
2
Famous As: Painter
Birthdate: August 4, 1755
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Aunou-sur-Orne, France
Died: December 6, 1805

 36 Joseph Monier

Joseph Monier
2
Famous As: Gardener
Birthdate: November 8, 1823
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Saint-Quentin-la-Poterie, France
Died: March 13, 1906

 37 Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin

Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin
1
Famous As: Magician
Birthdate: December 7, 1805
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Blois, France
Died: June 13, 1871

Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin was a French watchmaker turned magician and illusionist. The son of a watchmaker, he followed in his father’s footsteps and had a successful career in this field. He ventured into magic by chance and ended up revolutionizing the field. He is today widely regarded as the father of the modern style of conjuring. 

 38 Louis-Sébastien Lenormand

Louis-Sébastien Lenormand
1
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: May 25, 1757
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Montpellier, France
Died: April 4, 1837

 39 Émile Baudot

Émile Baudot
2
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: September 11, 1845
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Magneux, France
Died: March 28, 1903
French telegraph engineer Émile Baudot was the inventor of Baudot code which was the first means of digital communication. One of the pioneers of telecommunications, Baudot invented a multiplexed printing telegraph system that used his code and allowed multiple transmissions over a single line. The symbol rate measurement is known as baudOffsite Link in Baudot's honor.

 40 Paul Cornu

Paul Cornu
1
Famous As: Engineers
Birthdate: June 15, 1881
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Glos-la-Ferrière, La Ferté-en-Ouche, France
Died: June 6, 1944
French engineer Paul Cornu designed and built the first helicopter to perform a manned free flight. His twin-rotor craft, powered by a 24-horsepower engine, flew briefly at Coquainvilliers in 1907.  Cornu's performance was a considerable progress as his aircraft flew without additional support. Even though his name was written in aviation history, Cornu’s design proved impractical and soon was abandoned.

 41 Charles Cros

Charles Cros
2
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: October 1, 1842
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Aude, France
Died: August 9, 1888

 42 Gaston Planté

Gaston Planté
4
Famous As: Physicist
Birthdate: April 22, 1834
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Orthez, France
Died: May 21, 1889

 43 Alexandre Alexeieff

Alexandre Alexeieff
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Famous As: Artist
Birthdate: April 18, 1901
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Kazan, Russia
Died: August 9, 1982

Alexandre Alexeieff was a Russian Empire-born French filmmaker, artist, and illustrator. Alexeieff and his wife Claire Parker are credited with inventing an animation technique called totalization as well as the pinscreen animation. His life and career have inspired a couple of documentary films, namely Alexeieff at the Pinboard, Portrait of Alexeieff, and Dreams about Alfeoni.

 44 Bernard Courtois

Bernard Courtois
1
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: February 8, 1777
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Dijon, France
Died: September 27, 1838

Bernard Courtois was a French chemist. He is credited with isolating iodine and morphine. Interested in chemistry from a young age, he learned how to make potassium nitrate for gunpowder for the French Revolution. He later found work at the École Polytechnique in Paris. Later in life, he went into manufacturing high-quality iodine and its salts. 

 45 Leo Valentin

Leo Valentin
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Famous As: Skydiver, Aircraft pilot
Birthdate: March 22, 1919
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Épinal, France
Died: May 20, 1956

 46 Charles Xavier Thomas

Charles Xavier Thomas
1
Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: May 5, 1785
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Colmar, France
Died: March 12, 1870

 47 Alphonse Pénaud

Alphonse Pénaud
1
Famous As: Designer
Birthdate: May 31, 1850
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: October 22, 1880
Alphonse Pénaud, the 19th-century French pioneer of aviation design and engineering, was the originator of the use of twisted rubber to power model aircraft. He created a model airplane called the Planophore which had the first aerodynamically stable flying model in 1871. Pénaud died by suicide amid public ridicule of his ideas and failure to find financial support for research.

 48 Anselme Payen

Anselme Payen
1
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: January 6, 1795
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 12, 1871

French chemist Anselme Payen is known for co-discovering the first enzyme diastase, and for discovering the carbohydrate cellulose. He broke the Dutch monopoly for borax by developing a method to synthesize borax from soda and boric acid; developed a method to determine nitrogen and methods for refining sugar; and invented a decolorimeter.

 49 Léon Gaumont

Léon Gaumont
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Famous As: Founded the Gaumont Film Company and worked in partnership with Solax Studios
Birthdate: May 10, 1864
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: August 10, 1946

 50 Henri Herz

Henri Herz
1
Famous As: Pianist
Birthdate: January 6, 1803
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: January 5, 1888