Jacques-Yves Cousteau
1910 - 1997


The world famous scientist and underwater explorer, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, was born in 1910 in France. Even as a child, he loved the water, and it soon became clear that he was also very clever at building machines. When he was only 11, he built a model crane, at when he was 13, he built a battery-operated car. Fascinated by movies, he saved his money and bought himself a movie camera.

It is no wonder then that he found school a little boring. And, like many children when they become bored, he began to cause trouble. His parents responded immediately - they sent him to a very strict boarding school. It was the best thing they could have done, because Cousteau loved it, worked very hard and, when he graduated, went straight into the French Naval Academy. By 1933, Jacques-Yves was a gunnery officer in the French navy. He began to explore the undersea world, and turned his talents to trying to build a machine to allow people to stay underwater longer. In 1937, Cousteau married, and he and his wife had two sons.

Just two years later, World War II broke out, and Cousteau fought for the French, spending time as a spy, and being awarded several medals for bravery. But even though there was a war on, Cousteau still continued his underwater work. Working with a French engineer, Emile Gagnan, he was able to perfect the aqualung (water lung), which meant divers could now stay underwater for several hours, without a heavy diving suit and long air lines back to a ship. After the war, the aqualung proved invaluable, because it allowed divers to find and clear enemy mines from harbours, shipping lanes and beaches. Because of his interest and inventions, in 1950 Cousteau was made President of the French Oceanographic Campaigns. It was in the same year that Cousteau bought the ship that was to become famous around the world - Calypso.

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Of course, all this required a great deal of money, so Cousteau began to write books and use his love of movies to produce a number of films. Two of these films (The Silent World (1956) and World Without Sun (1966)), won Academy Awards for Best Documentary. His books included The Living Sea (1963) and Jacques Cousteau: The Ocean World (1985).

By 1957, Cousteau had retired from the French navy, was the Director of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, had founded the Underseas Research Group at Toulon and was head of the Conshelf Saturation Dive Program, where divers worked and lived underwater for an extended time.

From 1968-1976, Cousteau made what was to become one of the worlds best-known television series, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. For many people, it was their first glimpse into the undersea world of shipwrecks, fish, coral reefs, whales, dolphins and even sunken treasure.

In 1975, alarmed by pollution of the oceans, Cousteau started the Cousteau Society, which has as its main aim the protection of all ocean life. Today, there are more than 300 000 members worldwide.

In 1985, the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, awarded the Medal of Freedom to Cousteau, and in 1989 Cousteauís own countrymen honoured him by making him a member of the French Academy - a very high honour in France.


Unfortunately, Calypso sank in Singapore Harbour in 1996, though it was later refloated.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau, one of the worlds greatest ocean explorers and marine scientists, died in June 1997.