Jacques Cousteau

(1910—1997) French oceanographer and film director

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French naval officer, explorer, and one of the pioneers of oceanography, best known for developing, with Émile Gagnan, the aqualung for diving, and for his documentaries and books. He was born at Saint-André-de-Cubzac in the Gironde, and, after serving in the French Navy, worked in the Resistance during the Second World War (1939–45), and was awarded the Legion of Honour after it. In 1950 he converted a British minesweeper, Calypso, into a research ship and made several expeditions aboard her. From these he made two full-length films, Le Monde du silence (The World of Silence), produced in 1956, and Monde sans soleil (World without Sun), produced in 1964, and the television series, ‘The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau’. In 1957 he was appointed director of the Oceanographic Museum at Monaco, and during the 1960s carried out several experiments in living underwater in undersea laboratories. In 1973 he formed the Cousteau Society, a non-profit-making organization devoted to marine conservation which has offices in France and the USA.

Besides the aqualung, he invented a number of useful tools for oceanographers including a highly manoeuvrable underwater vehicle, underwater cameras, and a camera sled to facilitate photography of the seabed at great depths. His last book, Man, the Octopus, and the Orchid, was published posthumously. Among his other publications were: The Silent World (1953), The Living Sea (1963), World without Sun (1965), and a 20-volume encyclopedia, The Ocean World of Jacques Cousteau, published during the 1970s.

Subjects: Maritime History — Contemporary History (Post 1945).