Cousteau, Jacques-Yves (1910-1997)
Cousteau, Jacques-Yves (1910-1997)
Jacques Cousteau was known as the co-inventor of the aqualung, along with his television programs, feature-length films, and books, all of which have showcased his research on the wonders of the marine world. Cousteau helped demystify undersea life, documenting its remarkable variety, its interdependence, and its fragility. Through the Cousteau Society, which he founded, Cousteau led efforts to call attention to environmental problems and to reduce marine pollution.
Jacques-Yves Cousteau was born in St. André-de-Cubzac, France, on June 11, 1910 to Elizabeth Duranthon and Daniel Cousteau. Jacques, for the first seven years of his life, suffered from chronic enteritis, a painful intestinal condition. In 1918, after the Treaty of Versailles, Daniel found work as legal adviser to Eugene Higgins, a wealthy New York expatriate. Higgins traveled extensively throughout Europe , with the Cousteau family in tow. Cousteau recorded few memories from his childhood; his earliest impressions, however, involved water and ships. His health greatly improved around this time, thanks in part to Higgins, who encouraged young Cousteau to learn how to swim.
In 1920, the Cousteaus accompanied Higgins to New York City. Here, Jacques attended Holy Name School in Manhattan, learning the intricacies of stickball and roller-skating. He spent his summers at a camp on Vermont's Lake Harvey, where he first learned to dive underwater. At age 13, after a trip south of the American border, he authored a hand-bound book he called "An Adventure in Mexico." That same year, he purchased a Pathé movie camera, filmed his cousin's marriage, and began making short melodramatic films.
During his teens, Cousteau was expelled from a French high school for "experimenting" on the school's windows with different-sized stones. As punishment, he was sent to a military-style academy near the French-German border, where he became a dedicated student. He graduated in 1929, unsure of which career path to follow. The military won out over filmmaking simply because it offered the opportunity for extended travel. After passing a rigorous entrance examination, he was accepted by the Ecole Navale, the French naval academy. His class embarked on a one-year world cruise, which he documented, filming everything and everyone—from Douglas Fairbanks, the famous actor, to the Sultan of Oman. After graduating second in his class in 1933, he was promoted to second lieutenant and sent to a naval base in Shanghai, China. His assigned duty was to survey and map the countryside, but in his free time he filmed the locals in China and Siberia.
In the mid–1930s, Cousteau returned to France and entered the aviation academy. Shortly before graduation, in 1936, he was involved in a near-fatal automobile accident that mangled his left forearm. His doctors recommended amputation but he steadfastly refused. Instead, he chose rehabilitation, using a regimen of his own design. He began taking daily swims around Le Mourillon Bay to rehabilitate his injured arm. He fell in love with goggle diving, marveling at the variety and beauty of undersea life. He later wrote in his book The Silent World : "One Sunday morning…I waded into the Mediterranean and looked into it through Fernez goggles…I was astonished by what I saw in the shallow shingle at Le Mourillon, rocks covered with green, brown and silver forests of algae and fishes unknown to me, swimming in crystalline water…Sometimes we are lucky enough to know that our lives have been changed, to discard the old, embrace the new, and run headlong down an immutable course. It happened to me at Le Mourillon on that summer's day, when my eyes were opened on the sea."
During his convalescence he met 17-year-old Simone Melchior, a wealthy high-school student who was living in Paris. After a one-year courtship, the couple married and moved into a house near Le Mourillon Bay. The Cousteaus' first son, Jean-Michel, was born in March of 1938. A second son, Philippe, was born in 1939. Around this time, the new family's tranquil life on the edge of the sea was threatened by world events. In 1939, France began preparing for war, and Cousteau was promoted to gunnery officer aboard the Dupleix. The war was largely limited to ground action, however, and Germany quickly overran the ill-prepared French Army. Living in the unoccupied section of France enabled Cousteau to continue his experiments and allowed him to spend many hours with his family. In his free time, he experimented with underwater photography devices and tried to develop improved diving apparatuses. German patrols often questioned Cousteau about his use of diving and photographic equipment. Although he was able to convince authorities that the equipment was harmless, Cousteau was, in fact, using these devices on behalf of the French resistance movement. For his efforts, he was later awarded the Croix de Guerre with palm.
Cousteau regretted the limitations of goggle diving; he simply could not spend enough time under water. The standard helmet and heavy suit apparatus had similar limitations; the diver was helplessly tethered to the ship, and the heavy suit and helmet made Cousteau feel awkward in his movements. A number of experiments with other diving equipment followed, but all the existing systems proved unsatisfactory. He designed his own "oxygen re-breathing outfit," which was less physically constrictive but which ultimately proved ineffective and dangerous. Also during this period he began his initial experiments with underwater filmmaking. Working with two colleagues, Philippe Talliez, a naval officer, and Frédéric Dumas, a renowned spearfisherman, Cousteau filmed his first underwater movie, Sixty Feet Down, in 1942. The 18-minute film reflects the technical limitations of underwater photography but was quite advanced for its time. Cousteau entered the film in the Cannes Film Festival, where it received critical praise and was purchased by a film distributor.
As pleased as he was with his initial efforts at underwater photography, Cousteau realized that he needed to spend more time underwater to accurately portray the ocean's mysteries. In 1937, he began collaboration with Emile Gagnan, an engineer with a talent for solving technical problems. In 1942, Cousteau again turned to Gagnan for answers. The two spent approximately three weeks developing an automatic regulator that supplied compressed air on demand. This regulator, along with two tanks of compressed air, a mouthpiece, and hoses, was the prototype Aqualung, which Gagnan and Cousteau patented in 1943.
That summer, Cousteau, Talliez, and Dumas tested the Aqualung off the French Riveria, making as many as five hundred separate dives. This device was put to use on the group's next project, an exploration of the Dalton, a sunken British steamer. This expedition provided material for Cousteau's second movie, Wreck. The film deeply impressed French naval authorities, who recruited Cousteau to assist with the dangerous task of clearing mines from French harbors. When the war ended, Cousteau received a commission to continue his research as part of the Underwater Research Group, which included both Talliez and Dumas. With increased funding and ready access to scientists and engineers, the group expanded its research and developed a number of innovations, including an underwater sled.
In 1947, Cousteau, using the Aqualung, set a world's record for free diving, reaching a depth of 300 feet. The following year, Dumas broke the record with a 306-foot dive. The team developed and perfected many of the techniques of deep-sea diving, working out rigorous decompression schedules that enabled the body to adjust to pressure changes. This physically demanding, dangerous work took its toll; one member of the research team was killed during underwater testing.
On July 19, 1950, Cousteau bought Calypso, a converted U.S. minesweeper. The next year, after undergoing significant renovations, Calypso sailed for the Red Sea. The Calypso Red Sea Expedition (1951–52) yielded numerous discoveries, including the identification of previously unknown plant and animal species and the discovery of volcanic basins beneath the Red Sea. In February of 1952, Calypso sailed toward Toulon. On the way home, the crew investigated an uncharted wreck near the southern coast of Grand Congloué and discovered a large Roman ship filled with treasures. The discovery helped spread Cousteau's fame in France. In 1953, with the publication of The Silent World, Cousteau achieved international notice. The book, drawn from Cousteau's daily logs, was written originally in English with the help of U.S. journalist James Dugan and later translated into French. Released in more than 20 languages, The Silent World eventually sold more than five million copies worldwide.
In 1953, Cousteau began collaborating with Harold Edgerton, a pioneer in high-speed photography who had invented the strobe light and other photographic devices. Edgerton and his son, William, spent several summers aboard Calypso, outfitting the ship with an innovative camera that skimmed along the ocean floor, sending back blurry but intriguing photos of deep-sea creatures. The death of William Edgerton in an unrelated diving accident effectively ended the experiments, but Cousteau had already realized the limitations of such a method of exploring the ocean depths. Instead, he and his team began work on a small, easily maneuverable submarine, which he called the diving saucer, or DS–2. The sub has made more than one thousand dives and has been part of countless undersea discoveries.
In 1955, Calypso embarked on a 13,800-mile journey that was recorded by Cousteau for a film version of The Silent World. The ninety-minute film premiered at the 1956 Cannes International Film Festival, where it received the coveted Palme d'Or. The following year, the film won an Oscar from the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 1957, in part due to his film's success, Cousteau was named director of the Oceanographic Institute and Museum of Monaco. He filled the museum's aquariums with rare and unusual species garnered from his ocean expeditions.
Cousteau addressed the first World Oceanic Congress in 1959, an event that received widespread coverage and led to his appearance on the cover of Time magazine on March 28, 1960. The highly favorable story painted Cousteau as a poet of the deep. In April of 1961, Cousteau received the National Geographic Society's Gold Medal at a White house ceremony hosted by President John F. Kennedy. The medal's inscription reads: "To earthbound man he gave the key to the silent world."
During the early 1960s, Cousteau and his crew participated in the Conshelf Saturation Dive program, which was intended to prove the feasibility of extended underwater living. The success of the first mission led to Conshelf II, a month-long project involving five divers. The Conshelf program and the DS–2 project provided material for the 53-minute film World without Sun, which debuted in the United States in December of 1964.
Cousteau's first hour-long television special, "The World of Jacques-Yves Cousteau," was broadcast in 1966. The program's high ratings and critical acclaim helped Cousteau land a lucrative contract with the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau premiered in 1968, and has since been rebroadcast in hundreds of countries. The program starred Cousteau and his sons, Philippe and Jean-Michel. The show ran for eight seasons , with the last episode airing in May of 1976. In 1977, the Cousteau Odyssey series premiered on the Public Broadcasting System. The new show reflected Cousteau's growing concern about environmental destruction and tended not to focus on specific animal species.
In the 1970s, the Cousteau Society, a nonprofit environmental group that also focuses on peace issues, opened its doors in Bridgeport, Connecticut. By 1975, the society had more than 120,000 members and had opened branch offices in Los Angeles, New York, and Norfolk, Virginia. Eventually, Cousteau decided to make Norfolk the home base for Calypso.
On June 28, 1979, Philippe Cousteau was killed when the seaplane he was piloting crashed on the Tagus River near Lisbon, Portugal. Philippe's death deeply affected Cousteau, who was to his death unable to talk about the accident or the loss of his son. Philippe was expected to eventually take command of his father's empire; instead, Jean-Michel was given increased responsibility for overseeing the Cousteau Society and his father's other ventures.
In 1980, Cousteau signed a one-million-dollar contract with the National Office of Canadian Film to produce two programs on the greater St. Lawrence waterway. In 1984, the Cousteau Amazon series premiered on the Turner Broadcasting System. The four shows were enthusiastically reviewed, and called attention to the threatened native South American cultures, Amazon rain forest, and creatures that lived in one of the world's great rivers . The final show of the series, "Snowstorm in the Jungle," explored the frightening world of cocaine trafficking. In the mid–1980s "Cousteau/Mississippi: The Reluctant Ally" received an Emmy award for outstanding informational special. In all, Cousteau's television programs have earned more than 40 Emmy nominations.
In addition to his television programs, Cousteau continued to produce new inventions. The Sea Spider, a many-armed diagnostic device, was developed to analyze the biochemistry of the ocean's surface. In 1980, Cousteau and his team began work on the Turbosail, which uses high-tech wind sails to cut fuel consumption in large, ocean-going vessels. In spring of 1985, he launched a new wind ship, the Alcyone, which was outfitted with two 33-foot-high Turbosails.
In honor of his achievements, Cousteau received the Grand Croix dans l'Ordre National du Mérite from the French government in 1985. That same year, he also received the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom. In November of 1987, he was inducted into the Television Academy's Hall of Fame and later received the founder's award from the International Council of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. In 1988, the National Geographic Society honored him with its Centennial Award for "special contributions to mankind throughout the years."
While some critics challenged his scientific credentials, Cousteau never claimed "expert" status in any discipline. His talents appeared as poetic as scientific; his films and books—which include the eight-volume Undersea Discovery series and the 21-volume Ocean World encyclopedia series—have a lyrical quality that conveys the captain's great love of nature. This optimism was tempered by his concerns about the environment. He emphatically demonstrated, perhaps to a greater degree than any of his contemporaries, how the quality of both the land and sea is deteriorating and how such environmental destruction is irreversible.
Cousteau continued to speak publicly about environmental issues until he was well into his eighties, although he had given up diving in cold water. In the years before his death, he had been planning for the construction of the Calypso 2 to replace the original Calypso, which had sunk in a Singapore shipyard in 1994. The $20 million vessel was to be powered by solar energy and include equipment for a television studio, marine laboratory, and satellite transmission facility. The oceanographer died of a heart attack in 1997, at his home in Paris, after suffering from a respiratory ailment. He was 87.
"Cousteau, Jacques-Yves (1910-1997)." World of Earth Science. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cousteau-jacques-yves-1910-1997
"Cousteau, Jacques-Yves (1910-1997)." World of Earth Science. . Retrieved October 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cousteau-jacques-yves-1910-1997
Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1910-1997) was an undersea explorer, photographer, inventor of diving devices, writer, television producer, and filmmaker. He was also active in the movement to safeguard the oceans from pollution.
"Calypso acquired a buoyant personality that has never left her. I decided from the beginning that those on board were companions in the adventure, whatever their jobs might be. There was no officers' mess; we all ate together. During the tumultuous and jocose mealtimes we discussed plans, made decisions, and learned from each other. No one shouted orders, and no one wore anything resembling a uniform. Pride of outfit began to develop, expressed in customs of our own."
On her first research voyage to the Red Sea the maritime and diving expertise of her crew was combined with the scientific expertise of academic scientists who came aboard. These expeditions advanced knowledge of the deep by the gathering of underwater flora and fauna and by extensive photographing of the underwater world, which is more vast than the surface above water. In this work Captain Cousteau and his companions achieved remarkable success, especially in very deep water photography. They discovered, by using nylon rope, a means of anchoring Calypso in water four and half miles deep in order to lower a camera to that depth.
When the French Ministry of Education finally provided grants to cover two-thirds of the expenses, Cousteau resigned from the navy in 1957 with the rank of lieutenant commander to become director of the Oceanographic Museum at Monaco. He continued deep-sea exploration, aided by the bathyscaphe invented by Auguste and Jacques Piccard. He was also an adviser to the team that in 1959 made a "diving saucer" which resembled a flying saucer. For him the undersea world was the counterpart of the spatial world above and just as precious.
In 1960 Cousteau was an important initiator of the movement to prevent the dumping of French atomic wastes into the Mediterranean Sea. This movement ended in success and, mindful of the rich resources of large bodies of water, encouraged him to state, "Why do we think of the ocean as a mere storehouse of food, oil, and minerals? The sea is not a bargain basement. … The greatest resource of the ocean is not material but the boundless spring of inspiration and well-being we gain from her. Yet we risk poisoning the sea forever just when we are learning her science, art, and philosophy and how to live in her embrace." Modern civilization has become disastrous. "Never before has the marine environment been as raped and poisoned at it is today. All the urban and industrial effluents of 500 million Europeans and Africans flow freely—practically without treatment—into the Mediterranean, a near-closed sea that was once the cradle of civilization. Millions of tons of toxic chemicals are either dumped directly into the ocean or find their way there indirectly by way of river pollution or rain."
Throughout his life, Cousteau enjoyed much recognition for his tireless advocacy of ocean ecology. In 1959 he addressed the first World Oceanic Congress, an event that received widespread coverage and led to his appearance on the cover of Time magazine on March 28, 1960. In April of 1961 Cousteau was awarded the National Geographic's Gold Medal at a White House ceremony hosted by President John F. Kennedy. It was Cousteau's television programs, however, that truly catapulted his work to world renown. In 1966 Cousteau's first hour-long television special, The World of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, was broadcast and received critical acclaim. The program's high ratings were instrumental in landing Cousteau a lucrative contract with the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) and in 1968 resulted in the series The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. The program ran for eight seasons and starred Cousteau, his sons, Philippe and Jean-Michel, and sea creatures from around the globe. In order to arouse public opinion against pollution he founded in 1975 the Cousteau Society, an international organization with branches in several countries (including the United States at Norfolk, Virginia). Two years later the Cousteau Odyssey series premiered on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and reflected Cousteau's growing concern about environmental destruction. During the 1980s Cousteau produced programs on the St. Lawrence and Mississippi rivers, and called attention to threatened South American cultures with his Cousteau Amazon series. In all, Cousteau's television programs earned him more than forty Emmy nominations.
In honor of his achievements, Cousteau received the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985. In 1987 he was inducted into the Television Academy's Hall of Fame and later received the founder's award from the International Council of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. In 1988 the National Geographic Society honored him with its Centennial Award and in 1989 France admitted him to membership in its prestigious Academy.
Cousteau died on June 25, 1997 at age 87. While some critics have challenged his scientific credentials, Cousteau never claimed "expert status" in any discipline. But perhaps to a greater degree than any of his more learned contemporaries, Cousteau enlightened the public by emphatically demonstrating the irreversible effects of environmental destruction.
Cousteau's major publications include: (with F. Dumas) The Silent World (1953); (with James Dugan) The Living Sea (1963); World Without Sun (1965); (with Philippe Cousteau) The Shark: Splendid Savage of the Sea (1970); Life and Death in a Coral Sea (1971); and Dolphins (1975). His other books dealt with sunken ships, corals, whales, octopi, and seals, as well as places explored by his divers. He also edited an encyclopedia, The Ocean World, in 20 volumes.
Cousteau's books contain many facts about his activities and ideas. Also useful for information about his career are James Dugan, Undersea Explorer: The Story of Captain Cousteau (1957) and Muriel Guberlet, Explorers of the Sea (1964). J. Cousteau and Alexis Sivirine, Jacques Cousteau's Calypso (1983) provides a detailed description of the ship, well illustrated. □
"Jacques-Yves Cousteau." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/jacques-yves-cousteau
"Jacques-Yves Cousteau." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved October 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/jacques-yves-cousteau
Jacques-Yves Cousteau, born in Saint-Andre-de-Cubzac, France, on June 11, 1910, explored the depths of the ocean and educated the world on what he found there. Being an environmentalist, Cousteau strove to persuade people to take care of the Earth, especially the oceans.
Cousteau's interest with the sea began when he was a child. Although he suffered from poor health, he became an avid swimmer. Throughout his youth, he explored the bottoms of pools and lakes and practiced holding his breath underwater. Breathing underwater would become a challenge for Cousteau to solve later in life.
Cousteau graduated from high school in 1929, and in 1930 he joined the French Navy. After completing his mandatory world tour with the navy, Cousteau decided he wanted to become a naval aviator and began training for it. Unfortunately, he was involved in a serious car accident that ended his hopes of becoming a flier. The accident did not end his naval career, however; he went to sea instead.
Cousteau enjoyed exploring the sea and wanted to examine what was below its surface. Remembering lessons learned in his youth about breathing underwater, he knew he had to develop a breathing apparatus if he was to stay underwater for longer periods of time.
Since the sixteenth century, inventors had been trying to meet the challenge of breathing underwater for long periods of time. Various apparatuses were invented for meeting this challenge. One such apparatus was a head-piece attached to a long breathing tube, but the tube was awkward to wear because it did not allow divers to dive very deep, and it was heavy. Another apparatus was a tank of oxygen not unlike today's aqualung . The early oxygen tank could not compress and regulate air the way it was needed for deep-sea diving. The air pressure in a diver's lungs has to be the same as the water pressure acting upon the diver's body.
Dr. Christian Lambertsen designed an apparatus for the United States military in 1939 that he called the "Self-Contained Underwater Oxygen Breathing Apparatus." The military called it "SCUBA."
However, scuba gear proved useful only for shallow dives. Cousteau wanted the freedom to explore the ocean at great depths but knew the available equipment would not allow him to make such dives, because he had experimented with these traditional breathing apparatuses. He joined French engineer Émile Gagnan in designing a breathing apparatus that would appropriately regulate air pressure at varying water depths.
In 1943, after several experiments, Cousteau and Gagnan finally invented the demand regulator, solving the problem of equalizing air pressure in the lungs with the water pressure acting upon the diver's body. They attached the regulator to three cylinders of air. The complete set of equipment was called the "aqualung" and would enable divers to dive deeper for longer periods of time. Through this accomplishment, Cousteau and Gagnan had modernized scuba diving. Cousteau could now explore the depths of the ocean more freely. Eventually he would record and film what he saw below the ocean's surface and share his findings with both the scientific community and the general public.
War and Post-War Years
While Cousteau worked on the aqualung, he continued performing his naval duties. France was involved in World War II (1939–1945) against Nazi Germany during this time. Cousteau aided France's war efforts through his resistance work. The French resistance would secretly battle the Nazis by conducting spy missions, sabotage, and by aiding people who fled persecution. One of Cousteau's resistance roles included spying on Italian naval forces.
After the Allied victory in World War II, Cousteau once again concentrated on exploring the depths of the ocean. In 1950, with the financial help of a friend, Cousteau bought a minesweeper called Calypso and converted it into a research vessel. Calypso transported Cousteau, his wife Simone, and a research crew around the world to such places as Easter Island, Mexico, California, and the Antarctic Circle.
In the early 1960s, Cousteau experimented with underwater living by developing the Conshelf living stations in which divers, on three separate occasions, stayed for periods of one week to nearly a month. The divers tested living conditions and conducted ocean experiments. Through these experiments, Cousteau gave the world a better understanding of the ocean.
Films, Books, and Later Life
Jacques Cousteau made films of ocean life and sunken ships that were havens for fish and plant life. The 1955 film, The Silent World, and the 1964 film, World without Sun, are two of his most famous movies. The Silent World won an Oscar and the Cannes International Film Festival's prestigious Palme d'Or award.
Cousteau also wrote many books including The Silent World (1953), World without Sun (1965), and The Whale (1972). Educating the world about ocean life was Cousteau's focus. This focus was apparent on the television series that ran from 1968 to 1975, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. Cousteau studied sharks, squid, dolphins, penguins, and many other sea creatures and invited the viewing audience to learn with him.
In his later years, Cousteau continued to learn about the sea and share his knowledge with the world. He started the Cousteau Society and became an active environmentalist. Jacques Cousteau died in June 1997 at the age of 87.
see also Careers in Oceanography; Earle, Sylvia; Submarines and Submersibles.
Munson, Richard. Cousteau: The Captain and His World. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1989.
Reef, Catherine. Jacques Cousteau: Champion of the Sea. Frederick, MD: Twenty-First Century Books, 1992.
Bellis, Mary. "Inventors of Scuba Diving Equipment." About, Inc. <http://www.inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blscuba.htm>.
"Cousteau People: Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Founder." About TCS. The Cousteau Society. <http://www.cousteausociety.org/tcs_people.html>.
"Cousteau, Jacques." Water:Science and Issues. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/cousteau-jacques
"Cousteau, Jacques." Water:Science and Issues. . Retrieved October 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/cousteau-jacques
Jacques Cousteau was an undersea explorer, a photographer, an inventor of diving devices, and a writer. Most important was his work that he produced and wrote for television, which enlightened audiences around the world on the subjects of the ocean's natural treasures and the effects of pollution.
Early life and inspiration
Jacques-Yves Cousteau was born June 11, 1910, in Saint-André-de-Cubzac, France, to Daniel and Elizabeth Cousteau. After their son's birth, the Cousteaus returned to Paris, France, where Daniel worked as a lawyer. Although Cousteau was a sickly child, who the doctors told not to participate in any strenuous activity, he learned to swim and soon developed a passionate love for the sea. He combined this love with an early interest in invention and built a model of a marine crane when he was eleven years old.
In school Cousteau was bored and often misbehaved. He was even expelled at one time. In 1930 Cousteau entered France's naval academy, the Ecole Navale, in Brest. He graduated three years later and then entered the French navy. In 1936 he was given a pair of underwater goggles, the kind used by divers. Cousteau was so impressed with what he saw beneath the sea that he immediately set about designing a device that would allow humans to breath underwater.
This project was put on hold during World War II (1939–45; a war in which England, the Soviet Union, and the United States clashed with Germany, Japan, and Italy). Cousteau became a gunnery (heavy guns) officer and was later awarded the prestigious Legion d'Honneur for his work with the French resistance, a military group fighting against the occupying German army.
Even during the war Cousteau turned his attention to the world below the sea. In 1942 he designed the Aqua-Lung, an early underwater breathing device. Cousteau then helped remove mines from French seas left over from the war. One of these minesweepers (boats used to remove mines from the bottom of the ocean) would become Cousteau's research ship, the Calypso.
Work aboard the Calypso
On the Calypso 's first research voyage to the Red Sea, the maritime (having to do with sea travel) and diving expertise of her crew was combined with the scientific expertise of academic scientists who came aboard. These expeditions advanced knowledge of the deep by gathering underwater flora (plants) and fauna (animals) and by extensively photographing the underwater world, which is more vast than the surface above water.
When the French Ministry of Education finally provided grants to cover two-thirds of the expenses, Cousteau resigned from the navy in 1957, with the rank of lieutenant commander, to become director of the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco.
In 1960 Cousteau was an important part of the movement to prevent the dumping of French atomic waste into the Mediterranean Sea. This movement ended in success. Throughout his life Cousteau enjoyed much recognition for his tireless support of ocean ecology (the relationship between organisms and their environment). In 1959 he addressed the first World Oceanic Congress, an event that received widespread coverage and led to his appearance on the cover of Time magazine on March 28, 1960.
In April of 1961 Cousteau was awarded the National Geographic 's Gold Medal at a White House ceremony hosted by President John F. Kennedy (1917–1963). It was through Cousteau's television programs, however, that his work captured the imagination of a worldwide audience. In 1966 Cousteau's first hourlong television special, "The World of Jacques-Yves Cousteau," was broadcast. It was well received by critics. The program's high ratings were important in landing Cousteau a contract with the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), which resulted in the series "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau" in 1968. The program ran for eight seasons and starred Cousteau, his sons, Philippe and Jean-Michel, and sea creatures from around the globe. In order to raise public opinion against pollution, in 1975 he founded the Cousteau Society, an international organization with branches in several countries (including the United States at Norfolk, Virginia).
In honor of his achievements, Cousteau received the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985. In 1987 he was inducted into the Television Academy's Hall of Fame, and later received the founder's award from the International Council of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. In 1988 the National Geographic Society honored him with its Centennial Award, and in 1989 France admitted him membership in its prestigious Academy.
Cousteau died in Paris, France, on June 25, 1997, at the age of eighty-seven. While some critics have challenged his scientific credentials, Cousteau never claimed "expert status" in any discipline. But perhaps to a greater degree than any of his fellow scientists, Cousteau enlightened the public by exposing the irreversible effects of environmental destruction.
For More Information
Cousteau, J., and Alexis Sivirine. Jacques Cousteau's Calypso. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1983.
DuTemple, Lesley A. Jacques Cousteau. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 2000.
King, Roger. Jacques Cousteau and the Undersea World. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2001.
Klingel, Cindy. Jacques Cousteau. Chanhassen, MN: Child's World, 1998.
"Cousteau, Jacques." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cousteau-jacques
"Cousteau, Jacques." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved October 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/cousteau-jacques