Famous French Inventors & Discoverers

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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.
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 1 
Louis Braille
(Inventor of Braille)
Louis Braille
5
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
(Inventor of Diesel Engine)
Rudolf Diesel
4
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
(Inventor of Stethoscope)
René Laennec
5
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
(Creator of World's First Permanent Photographic Image)
Nicéphore Niépce
3
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
(One of the Greatest Mathematicians of All Time Who Invented the Mechanical Calculator)
Blaise Pascal
9
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
3
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.
Joseph-Michel Montgolfier
3
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. 

 8 
Louis Le Prince
(Former inventor of an early motion-picture camera, possibly the first person to shoot a moving picture sequence using a single lens camera)
Louis Le Prince
3
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
3
Birthdate: July 7, 1752
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Lyon, France
Died: August 7, 1834
 10 
Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot
(combat engineer)
Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot
4
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 
Louis Blériot
(Aviator, Engineer, Inventor, Aerospace engineer)
Louis Blériot
5
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.

 12 
Augustin-Jean Fresnel
3
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.

 13 
Marcel Dassault
(Politician, Engineer, Entrepreneur, Aerospace engineer, Inventor, Screenwriter)
Marcel Dassault
3
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.

 14 
Franz Reichelt
(Parachuting pioneer)
Franz Reichelt
0
Birthdate: October 16, 1879
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Štětí, Czechia
Died: February 4, 1912
 15 
Jacques Charles
(Physicist, Chemist, Inventor, Balloonist, Mathematician)
Jacques Charles
3
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.

 16 
Louis Lumière
(Inventor of Cinematographer)
Louis Lumière
1
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. 
Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville
3
Birthdate: April 25, 1817
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris
Died: April 26, 1879
 18 
Nicolas Appert
(confectioner, inventor)
Nicolas Appert
3
Birthdate: November 17, 1749
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Châlons-en-Champagne
Died: June 1, 1841
 19 
Étienne Lenoir
(Inventor, Engineer)
Étienne Lenoir
2
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. 

 20 
Claude Chappe
(Inventor)
Claude Chappe
3
Birthdate: December 25, 1763
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Brûlon, Sarthe, France
Died: January 23, 1805
 21 
Jacques de Vaucanson
(Inventor, Engineer)
Jacques de Vaucanson
2
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.    

 22 
Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
(Former Writer best known for writing the epistolary novel Les Liaisons dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons) (1782))
Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
3
Birthdate: October 18, 1741
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Amiens, France
Died: September 5, 1803
 23 
Georges Leclanché
(French Electrical Engineer Famous for His Invention of the 'Leclanché Cell')
Georges Leclanché
1
Birthdate: October 9, 1839
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Parmain, 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. 

 24 
Auguste Lumière
2
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.

Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier
2
Birthdate: January 6, 1745
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Annonay, France
Died: August 1, 1799
 26 
Jean-Pierre Blanchard
(Inventor, Balloonist)
Jean-Pierre Blanchard
2
Birthdate: July 4, 1753
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Les Andelys
Died: March 7, 1809
 27 
Guillaume Amontons
2
Birthdate: August 31, 1663
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: October 11, 1705
 28 
Charles Bedaux
(Engineer)
Charles Bedaux
2
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.

 29 
Georges Claude
(Engineer)
Georges Claude
2
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.  

 30 
André-Jacques Garnerin
(Inventor, Balloonist)
André-Jacques Garnerin
2
Birthdate: January 31, 1769
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris
Died: August 18, 1823
 31 
Pierre Vernier
(Mathematician)
Pierre Vernier
2
Birthdate: August 19, 1580
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Ornans, France
Died: September 14, 1637
 32 
Nicolas-Jacques Conté
2
Birthdate: August 4, 1755
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Aunou-sur-Orne, France
Died: December 6, 1805
 33 
Émile Baudot
(Engineer)
Émile Baudot
2
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.
 34 
Joseph Monier
(Gardener)
Joseph Monier
2
Birthdate: November 8, 1823
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Saint-Quentin-la-Poterie, France
Died: March 13, 1906
 35 
Paul Cornu
(French Engineer Known for Designing the World’s First Successful Manned 'Rotary Wing Aircraft')
Paul Cornu
1
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.
Louis-Sébastien Lenormand
1
Birthdate: May 25, 1757
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Montpellier, France
Died: April 4, 1837
 37 
Charles Cros
2
Birthdate: October 1, 1842
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Aude, France
Died: August 9, 1888
 38 
Gaston Planté
(Physicist)
Gaston Planté
4
Birthdate: April 22, 1834
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Orthez, France
Died: May 21, 1889
 39 
Alexandre Alexeieff
1
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.

 40 
Alphonse Pénaud
(French Designer Known for Creating the First Successful Flying Model, Known as the 'Planophore')
Alphonse Pénaud
1
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.
 41 
Bernard Courtois
(French Chemist Known for First Isolating 'Iodine')
Bernard Courtois
1
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. 

 42 
Leo Valentin
(Skydiver, Aircraft pilot)
Leo Valentin
0
Birthdate: March 22, 1919
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Épinal, France
Died: May 20, 1956
 43 
Léon Gaumont
(Founded the Gaumont Film Company and worked in partnership with Solax Studios)
Léon Gaumont
0
Birthdate: May 10, 1864
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: August 10, 1946
 44 
Henri Herz
(Pianist)
Henri Herz
1
Birthdate: January 6, 1803
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: January 5, 1888
 45 
Claude-Étienne Minié
(Military Officer)
Claude-Étienne Minié
1
Birthdate: February 13, 1804
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: December 14, 1879
André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri
1
Birthdate: March 28, 1819
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: October 4, 1889
 47 
Henri-Gustave Delvigne
1
Birthdate: April 10, 1800
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Hamburg, Germany
Died: October 18, 1876
 48 
Charles Xavier Thomas
1
Birthdate: May 5, 1785
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Colmar, France
Died: March 12, 1870
 49 
André Cassagnes
1
Birthdate: September 23, 1926
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: January 16, 2013
 50 
Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc
(French Astronomer Who Discovered the ‘Orion Nebula’ (1610))
Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc
1
Birthdate: December 1, 1580
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Belgentier, France
Died: June 24, 1637

The son of an affluent surgeon from Provence, Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc grew up to be a famous astronomer, known mostly for his research on longitudes. He is also remembered for discovering the Orion Nebula and owned a huge collection of coins, which he used to study history.