France

Octave Chanute – One of the Fathers of Aviation

Octave Chanute – One of the Fathers of Aviation

On February 18, 1832, French-born American railway engineer and aviation pioneer Octave A. Chanute was born. He provided many budding enthusiasts, including the Wright brothers with help and advice, and helped to publicize their flying experiments. At his death he was hailed as the father of aviation and the heavier-than-air flying machine. “Let us hope that the advent of a successful flying machine, now only dimly foreseen and nevertheless thought to be…
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Henri Giffard and the Giffard Dirigible

Henri Giffard and the Giffard Dirigible

On February 8, 1825, French engineer and aviation pioneer Baptiste Henri Jacques Giffard was born. He is best known for being the first who succeeded to build a steam powered and steerable aircraft, the Giffard dirigible. Henri Giffard – From Locomotives to Ballons Henri Giffard was born in Paris. The tinkerer was enthusiastic about steam engines. After studying at the Collège royal de Bourbon, he began working as a technical draftsman for the…
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Jean-Henri Fabre – The Virgil of Insects

Jean-Henri Fabre – The Virgil of Insects

On December 22, 1821, French entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre was born. Being a prolific author, his greatest achievement lies in the polularization of insect natural history. Victor Hugo dubbed him “the insects’ Homer” and Edmond Rostand named him the “Virgil of insects.” Darwin cited him as “an incomparable observer.” Butterflies and Grasshoppers Jean-Henri Casimir Fabre was born in Saint Léons in Aveyron, France. He spent the first years of his youth at Le Malaval,…
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The Conversational Eloquence of Madame de Staël

The Conversational Eloquence of Madame de Staël

Madame de Staël (1766-1817) On July 14, 1817, French woman of letters of Swiss origin Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein, commonly known as Madame de Staël, passed away. She was one of Napoleon’s principal opponents. Celebrated for her conversational eloquence, she participated actively in the political and intellectual life of her times. Her works, both critical and fictional, made their mark on the history of European Romanticism. She was a remarkable woman,…
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Alfred Binet – How to Test Intelligence?

Alfred Binet – How to Test Intelligence?

On July 8, 1857, French psychologist Alfred Binet was born. He was a pioneer in the field of intelligence testing of the normal mind. He took a different approach than most psychologists of his day: he was interested in the workings of the normal mind. He invented the first practical intelligence test, the Binet-Simon scale rather than the pathology of mental illness. “Since we seek to know what is the physical phenomenon we perceive,…
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Charles Augustin de Coulomb and the Electrostatic Force

Charles Augustin de Coulomb and the Electrostatic Force

On June 14, 1736, French physicist Charles Augustin de Coulomb was born. He is best known for developing Coulomb’s law, the definition of the electrostatic force of attraction and repulsion, but also did important work on friction. The SI unit of electric charge, the coulomb, was named after him. Charles Augustin de Coulomb received a good education in mathematics, astronomy, chemistry and botany since both sides of his family were respected and quite wealthy…
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Joseph Sauveur and the Science of Acoustics

Joseph Sauveur and the Science of Acoustics

On March 24, 1653, French mathematician and physicist Joseph Sauveur was born. Sauveur is known principally for his detailed studies on acoustics, a term he also has coined for the first time. Joseph Sauveur – Early Years Joseph Sauveur was the son of a provincial notary in La Fléche, France. Despite a hearing and speech impairment that kept him totally mute until he was seven, Joseph benefited from a fine education at…
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Eugene Vidocq – The Father of Criminology

Eugene Vidocq – The Father of Criminology

During the night of 23 to 24 July 1775, French criminal and criminalist Eugene Vidocq was born. Vidocq is considered the world’s first private detective and father of modern criminology. His life story inspired several writers, including Victor Hugo and Honoré de Balzac. “I thought I could have remained an informer forever, so far from the thought of suspecting that I was a police agent. Even the door closers and the guards…
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