Famous French Inventors

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

Vote for Your Favourite French Inventors

 1 
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.

 2 
Nicéphore Niépce
(Creator of World's First Permanent Photographic Image)

Nicéphore Niépce
4
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.

 3 

Louis Daguerre
4
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.
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 4 
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
4
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.

 5 
Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot
(combat engineer)

Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot
3
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.

 6 
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.

 7 
Franz Reichelt
(Parachuting pioneer)

Franz Reichelt
0
Birthdate: October 16, 1879
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Štětí, Czechia
Died: February 4, 1912
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 8 
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.

Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais
3
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. 

 10 
Louis Blériot
(Aviator, Engineer, Inventor, Aerospace engineer)

Louis Blériot
3
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.

 11 

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

Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville
3
Birthdate: April 25, 1817
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris
Died: April 26, 1879

 13 
Nicolas Appert
(confectioner, inventor)

Nicolas Appert
3
Birthdate: November 17, 1749
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Châlons-en-Champagne
Died: June 1, 1841

 14 
Claude Chappe
(Inventor)

Claude Chappe
3
Birthdate: December 25, 1763
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Brûlon, Sarthe, France
Died: January 23, 1805

 15 
Étienne Lenoir
(Inventor, Engineer)

Étienne Lenoir
3
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. 

 16 
Jacques de Vaucanson
(Inventor, Engineer)

Jacques de Vaucanson
3
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.    

 17 
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

 18 
Octave Chanute
(Civil engineer)

Octave Chanute
2
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.

 19 

Guillaume Amontons
2
Birthdate: August 31, 1663
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: October 11, 1705

 20 
Jean-Pierre Blanchard
(Inventor, Balloonist)

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

 21 
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.

 22 
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.  

 23 
Levi ben Gershom
(Philosopher)

Levi ben Gershom
2
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.

 24 
Pierre Vernier
(Mathematician)

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

 25 
André-Jacques Garnerin
(Inventor, Balloonist)

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

 26 

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

 27 
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. 

 28 
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.

 29 
Joseph Monier
(Gardener)

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

Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin
1
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. 

Louis-Sébastien Lenormand
2
Birthdate: May 25, 1757
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Montpellier, France
Died: April 4, 1837

 32 
Paul Cornu
(Engineers)

Paul Cornu
2
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.

 33 
Gaston Planté
(Physicist)

Gaston Planté
2
Birthdate: April 22, 1834
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Orthez, France
Died: May 21, 1889

 34 

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

 35 

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.

 36 
Leo Valentin
(Skydiver, Aircraft pilot)

Leo Valentin
0
Birthdate: March 22, 1919
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Épinal, France
Died: May 20, 1956

 37 

Charles Xavier Thomas
2
Birthdate: May 5, 1785
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Colmar, France
Died: March 12, 1870

 38 
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

 39 
Henri Herz
(Pianist)

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

 40 

Georges Leclanché
1
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. 

 41 
Claude-Étienne Minié
(Military Officer)

Claude-Étienne Minié
1
Birthdate: February 13, 1804
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: December 14, 1879

 42 

Henri-Gustave Delvigne
1
Birthdate: April 10, 1800
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Hamburg, Germany
Died: October 18, 1876

André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri
1
Birthdate: March 28, 1819
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: October 4, 1889

 44 

André Cassagnes
1
Birthdate: September 23, 1926
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: January 16, 2013

 45 

Auguste Lumière
1
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.

 46 

Jeanne Villepreux-Power
1
Birthdate: September 24, 1794
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Juillac, France
Died: January 25, 1871

 47 
Paul Heroult
(Scientist)

Paul Heroult
1
Birthdate: April 10, 1863
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Thury-Harcourt, France
Died: May 9, 1914

Best known for inventing the electric-arc furnace, Paul Heroult had also devised the electrolytic process for developing low-cost aluminium. Because of a similar work by Charles Martin Hall, the process came to be known as the Hall–Heroult process. He had also been a technical advisor to many companies.

 48 
Émile Levassor
(Engineer)

Émile Levassor
1
Birthdate: January 21, 1843
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Marolles-en-Hurepoix, France
Died: April 14, 1897

 49 

Benoît Fourneyron
1
Birthdate: October 31, 1802
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Saint-Étienne, France
Died: July 31, 1867

 50 

Louis Arthur Ducos du Hauron
1
Birthdate: December 8, 1837
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Langon, France
Died: August 31, 1920