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Science and Technology of France

French Inventions
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AQUALUNG - The aqualung is a breathing apparatus that supplied oxygen to divers and allowed them to stay underwater for several hours. It was invented in 1943 by Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1910 -1997) and the French industrial gas control systems engineer Emile Gagnan. Among the innovations in their device was a mechanism that provided inhalation and exhaust valves at the same level. That summer, the new device was tested in the Mediterranean Sea down to 210 ft (68 m) by Cousteau, Philippe Tailliez, and Frédérik Dumas. This safe, easy-to-use, and reliable device was the first modern scuba system.

DRY CELL - The dry cell is a an improved voltaic cell with a cylindrical zinc shell (the zinc acts as both the cathode and the container) that is lined with an ammonium chloride (the electrolyte) saturated material (and not a liquid). The dry cell battery was developed in the 1870s-1870s by Georges Leclanche of France, who used an electrolyte in the form of a paste.

HOT-AIR BALLOON - A hot-air balloon is a balloon that is filled with hot air; it rises because hot air is less dense (lighter) than the rest of the air. Joseph and Jacques Etienne Montgolfier were two French bothers who made the first successful hot-air balloon. Their first balloon was launched in December, 1782, and ascended to an altitude of 985 ft (300 m). This type of hot-air balloon was called the Montgolfiére; it was made of paper and used air heated by burning wool and moist straw. The first passengers in a hot-air balloon were a rooster, a sheep, and a duck, whom the Montgolfier brothers sent up to an altitude of 1,640 ft (500 m) on September 19, 1783 (the trip lasted for 8 minutes); the animals survived the landing. This event was observed by King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette of France.

MAYONNAISE - Mayonnaise was invented in France hundreds of years ago, probably in 1756 by the French chef working for the Duke de Richelieu.

GYROSCOPE - A gyroscope is essentially a spinning wheel set in a movable frame. When the wheel spins, it retains its spatial orientation, and it resists external forces applied to it. Gyroscopes are used in navigation instruments (for ships, planes, and rockets). Jean Bernard Léon Foucault (1819-1868), a French physicist, invented the gyroscope in 1852.

METER (and the METRIC SYSTEM) - The metric system was invented in France. In 1790, the French National Assembly directed the Academy of Sciences of Paris to standardize the units of measurement. A committeee from the Academy used a decimal system and defined the meter to be one 10-millionths of the distance from the equator to the Earth's Pole (that is, the Earth's circumference would be equal to 40 million meters). The committee consisted of the mathematicians Jean Charles de Borda (1733-1799), Joseph-Louis Comte de Lagrange (1736-1813), Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749-1827), Gaspard Monge (1746 -1818), and Marie Jean Antoine Nicholas Caritat, the Marquis de Condorcet (1743-1794)



BAROMETER - A barometer is a device that measures air (barometric) pressure. It measures the weight of the column of air that extends from the instrument to the top of the atmosphere. There are two types of barometers commonly used today, mercury and aneroid (meaning "fluidless"). Earlier water barometers (also known as "storm glasses") date from the 17th century. The mercury barometer was invented by the Italian physicist Evangelista Torricelli (1608 - 1647), a pupil of Galileo, in 1643. Torricelli inverted a glass tube filled with mercury into another container of mercury; the mercury in the tube "weighs" the air in the atmosphere above the tube. The aneroid barometer (using a spring balance instead of a liquid) was invented by the French scientist Lucien Vidie in 1843.

BICYCLE - The earliest bicycle was a wooden scooter-like contraption called a celerifere; it was invented about 1790 by Comte Mede de Sivrac of France. In 1816, Baron Karl von Drais de Sauerbrun, of Germany, invented a model with a steering bar attached to the front wheel, which he called a Draisienne. It has two wheels (of the same size), and the rider sat between the two wheels, but there were no pedals; to move, you had to propel the bicycle forward using your feet (a bit like a scooter). He exhibited his bicycle in Paris on April 6, 1818.

BRAILLE - Braille is a coded system of raised dots that are used by the blind to read. Louis Braille (1809-1852) invented this system in 1829. Braille published "The Method of Writing Words, Music, and Plain Song by Means of Dots, for Use by the Blind and Arranged by Them," and his method is still in use around the world today.

GUILLOTINE - Many, many people were being executed during the French Revolution, and Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin (1738-1821) suggested that decapitation would be a more humane method for execution. Experiments with cadavers (dead people) were done. The device that we call the guillotine was invented; it is a tall wooden framework with a hole to keep a person's head still and a large falling blade. Although he did not invent the machine we call the guillotine, Guillotin's name is forever attached to it. The guillotine was first was used on April 25, 1792 at the Place de Grève (the victim was a highway man). The most famous victims of the guillotine include the deposed French King Louis XVI and his extravagant wife Queen Marie Antoinette, who were beheaded on January 21, 1793. The guillotine was used in France until 1981, when capital punishment was abolished.

SEWING MACHINE - the first functional sewing machine was invented by the French tailor Barthélemy Thimonnier in 1830. Other tailors feared for their livelihood, and burnt his workshop down. Elias Howe was American inventor who patented an improved sewing machine in 1846.

French II 4th Period Danielle Montalvo