Last updated: April 16, 2018 at 1:09 am
Diving pioneer, visionary, and inventor; world-famous underwater explorer and advocate for the environment; prolific author and film producer; was the first¹ to win a Palme d’Or for a documentary film at the Cannes Film Festival in (The Silent World, 1956); pioneered marine conservation; founder of the Cousteau Society / Équipe Cousteau, an environmental protection foundation with 300,000 members; was often received by world leaders and heads of state, including presidents, prime-ministers and the United Nations, to discuss exploration and environmental issues; co-inventor of the Aqua-Lung, the world’s first open-circuit scuba regulator to attain worldwide commercial success; became focused on his passion for underwater exploration after an automobile accident ended his dream of becoming a pilot in the French Navy; co-founder of the Groupe d’étude et de recherche sous-marines (GERS) in 1945; first to dive or document dozens of famous shipwrecks including the RHS Britannic and the Roraïma (Martinique); led the world’s first underwater archaeological excavation on scuba off Mahdia, Tunisia, in 1948; transformed a former minesweeper and car ferry into the world’s most famous oceanographic vessel, the Calypso in 1950; co-invented the world’s first maneuverable research submersible in 1957; director of the Monaco Oceanographic Museum from 1957 to 1988; led the world’s first multi-day manned underwater habitat mission in 1962; was one of the Mousquemers along with Frédéric Dumas, Philippe Tailliez, and Léon Vêche; his legacy includes multiple underwater firsts (see below), over 120 television documentaries and more than 50 books, including The Silent World: A Story of Undersea Discovery and Adventure, first published in 1953; pioneered a new form of scientific communication called divulgationism, a.k.a. popular science, which is a simple way of sharing scientific concepts with a general audience, and that subsequently became the norm of modern television broadcasting; inspired thousands to become scuba divers; father of Jean-Michel Cousteau (1938), Philippe Cousteau (1940), Diane Cousteau (1980), and Pierre-Yves Cousteau (1982); numerous schools and public places around the world are named in his honour; was respectfully parodied in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou cult film (2004); portrayed in L’Odyssée in 2016; a.k.a. Captain Cousteau, Captain Planet, JYC.
¹ The Silent World was also the only documentary film to win a Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival till 2004.
“People protect what they love.”
“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
“From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.”
“I am not a scientist. I am, rather, an impresario of scientists.”
“For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it.”
“No one can absolutely control the direction of his life; but each person can certainly influence it. The armchair explorers who complain that they never got their “one lucky shot” were never really infected by the incurable drive to explore. Those who have the bug… go.”
“Il faut aller voir (We must go and see for ourselves)”
— Jacques-Yves Cousteau