From Pasteurization (Louis Pasteur) and the aspirin (Charles Frédéric Gerhardt) to the first motion picture (the Lumière brothers), French inventions span multiple categories across the centuries: Arts & Entertainment, Chemistry, Physics & Mathematics, Medicine & Biology, Communication, Transportation, Clothing and, of course, Food & Cooking.
Here are a few honourable mentions that may (or may not) surprise you:
- Aqualung - invented in 1943 by Jacques-Yves Cousteau, this device gave divers an unprecedented level of autonomy by allowing them to stay underwater for several hours at a time.
- Braille - in 1829, Louis Braille invented this system of raised dots, giving blind people an easy way to read and write, a method still in use today.
- Hot air balloon - created by brothers Joseph and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier, they launched their first hot air balloon, called a Montgolifère, in 1782.
- Mayonnaise - Sources differ on this one. Some (the Spanish) claim it was created by them on the island of Menorca. The French, of course, say the contraire. But whoever whisked together same-temperature egg yolks and oil for the first time has undoubtedly made a grand contribution to world food culture ever since.
- Modern Bikini - in 1946 two Frenchmen, Jacques Heim and Louis Reard each introduced, independent of one another, their redesigned "skimpy" versions of the two-piece swimsuit in vogue at the time. Heim called his the atome while Reard named his the bikini, a direct reference to the atomic testing going on in the Bikini Atoll at the time.
It might at first seem paradoxical that the same culture is responsible for what may appear to be diametrically opposed innovations — mayonnaise and the bikini.
But that just points to a mystery that many people have been trying to solve for ages — how is it that French women stay so darned thin?
It is a just question, and one whose answer deserves its own post for a future date.