The Independent Traveler's Newsletter                                        PAGE THREE

French Inventions and Discoveries:  Surprised? 
After hearing recently that the French created reinforced concrete, a boon to 20th century construction, we decided to do a little research into just what else the French have come up with that we benefit from in our every day lives.  Oh, sure, we knew about the Montgolfier brothers, Joseph and Etienne, and their hot air balloons, Montgolfier's Balloonand we were aware that the photographic process came from France (Niepce in 1826) followed by Louis Daguerre's improved and patented photographic process in 1839, but how much more was there?

We soon discovered an incredible list of things for which we should thank the French!  Back in the 16th century there were Ambroise Paré's surgical instruments, and in the 17th century perhaps (to computer people the name will ring a loud bell) the more familiar Blaise Pascal who, in 1642,  invented the mechanical calculator, centuries later to have a computer language named after him.  The 18th century was far busier with Nicolas Cugnot inventing the steam-driven car (1769), Georges Lesage sending a telegraph message using a single wire system (1774), Joseph Jacquard devising the first industrial automatic loom, and, in 1783, (the same year as that hot air balloon rose into the sky) Louis Lenormand inventing the parachute.  Staying afloat (the French seemed to want to fly more than any other nation of people!) Jean Baptiste Meusnier invented the lighter-than-air dirigible in 1785.  And, in 1791, Claude Chappe invented the optical system telegraph.

Moving on to the 19th century, the French were extremely active and their inventions and discoveries made great inroads into the field of health and technology.  Nicolas Appert invented the canning process used to this day to kill bacteria by boiling (1810).  René Laennec invented the stethoscope in 1816, followed by Joseph Gay-Lussac, a chemist, who invented the hydrometer and alcoholometer.  Leaving inventions for a moment, there was Jean-François Campollion, the first person to decipher the Rosetta Stone in 1822.  Louis Braille, in 1829, created the printed language for the blind, and, also related to printing, Xavier Progin created a machine with separate type bars for each letter or symbol activated by lever keys - the forerunner of the typewriter. 

The 19th century continued to be filled with discovery in France.  In 1830, Barthelemy Thimonnier used the double-pointed needle as the basis for the first sewing machine put to practical use.  Physicist Jean Foucault invented the gyroscope in 1852, the same year that Henri Deville invented electrolysis to refine aluminum from bauxite and Henri Giffard achieved fame for the first steam-powered steerable airship.  Five years later, Edouard-Léon Scott de Martinville invented the 'phonautographe' which recorded sound, unfortunately without playback. 

In 1860, Raymond Planté came up with the first lead-acid battery.  Rouquayrol and Denayrouse devised hard-hat deep sea diving in 1865.  Bicycles were the focus of Pierre Lallement (the rotary pedal bicycle in 1865) and the Brothers Michaux (steam-driven bicycle in 1868).  A chemist named Mège Mouriés created margarine a year later.  And, simultaneously with Thomas Edison, Charles Cros invented the phonograph in 1877.  Toward the end of the century, in 1895,  the Lumière brothers came up with the first movie camera, the very same year that René Panhard and Emile Levassor made the prototype for the modern car with four wheels, a front engine and a pedal clutch among other features.  Jean Lenoir, during this time, invented the world's first practical internal combustion engine, soon improved upon by Daimler-Benz.  (Did you know that Daimler never actually met Benz?)

An interesting American military connection comes with an invention recently discovered in French Naval archives:  the Union submarine 'Alligator', the US Navy's first commissioned submarine and the first one in combat, lost in a storm off Cape Hatteras in 1863.  It was created by Brutus de Villeroi, an eccentric Frenchman who listed himself on the French census of 1860 as 'natural genius'.  As you read this newsletter, the search is on for the Alligator off the coast of North Carolina! 

We have no date on these but Gustav Eiffel (yes, that Eiffel) invented the brassiere. Rudolph Diesel (born in Paris of Bavarian parents) invented the diesel engine  in 1898 and Louis Paul Cailletet was the French physicist who invented the altimeter and the high-pressure manometer in the late 19th to early 20th century. 

Turning the corner into the 20th century, the French forged ahead with Georges Claude inventing the neon lamp (1902).  Paul Cornu (1907) made the first short flight of a helicopter prototype; once again the French took to the air!  The process for making laminated safety glass was the contribution of Edouard Benedictus in 1909, and a year later aeronautics was once again the focus with the release of Henri-M. Coanda's turbine engine airplane.  Well, here's something we can all appreciate:  Velcro fasteners were invented by George de Mestral in 1941!  Two years later, this time under the sea, Emile Gagnand and Jacques-Yves Cousteau came out with their 'Aqua Lung' for scuba diving. Jacques-Yves Cousteau at Académie FrançaiseYour children will thank Arthur Granjean for his 1958 creation:  Etch-A-Sketch.  Computer technology advanced in 1973 with François Gernelle's first non-kit computer based on a microprocessor, while Philippe Kahn created its software/operating system.  Roland Moreno came up with the concept of putting silicon chip computer memory on a plastic card in 1974.

In 1980 France Telecom gave the French (it was free!) the Minitel, the precursor to the Internet -- an estimated 8.5 million terminals were in French households in 2003.  Beginning as on line yellow pages, it evolved into a shopping site, a banking tool, a place to buy tickets for sports and travel, an encyclopedia and a news source.  Sound at all familiar?

In 1992, Robert Cailliau and Jean-François Groff, Swiss francophones,  co-invented the World Wide Web with Britain's Tim Berners-Lee.  The French are also given credit for inventing ATM: Asynchronous Transfer Mode, or otherwise known as the high-speed internet. Louis Pasteur

Perhaps the most important of all contributions to the world by French science are those of Louis Pasteur, whose discovery that most infectious diseases are caused by germs is one of the most important in medical history.  Most famous for his 1864 experiments with diseases in France's  vineyards which led to Pasteurization, Louis Pasteur is also credited with discovering fermentation, which paved the way for the study of germs that cause septicemia and gangrene, among other infections.  He wrote the basic rules of sterilization to kill bacteria and discovered three of the bacteria that are responsible for human illness: staphylococcus, streptococcus and pneumococcus.  He pioneered rabies treatment in humans and is responsible for the creation of vaccines in medicine. 

The French government to this day funnels enormous amounts of money into research and development.  According to one source, the French were number one in the world in government funding for academic research.  They are fourth in the world in financial support of industrial research.   Their natural curiosity is fed by a long history of successful achievements in the world of science, medicine and technology.  Do you wonder what they will come up with next? 

It is obvious that France is not just another pretty  place!

See France with Michelin

Over the years we have repeatedly emphasized the pleasures of driving in France and the absolute necessity of doing so with Michelin maps at hand.  From finding a château chambres d'hôtes in the countryside (look for the small white rectangles), to figuring out the most scenic route from place to place (look for the highway bordered in green), Michelin maps have never let us down. 

Although Michelin Travel Publications provides maps, road atlases, regional maps, pocket guides, national maps, Green guides, Michelin Guides, wall maps and city maps for countries all over the world,  their largest collection for travelers focuses on France.  Beyond the items just mentioned, Michelin offers even more to those visiting France.   With all this information at your fingertips, you not only have access to a variety of information but if you can read a map (and these are easy to read), you really will have to try hard to get lost!

Recently, Michelin renumbered their popular yellow Regional Maps of France beginning with 511 and ending in 528.  These numbers are important to know when ordering maps for an upcoming trip to France.  Following is a summary of what is available to find your way around France by car:

o  Road Atlas France   - includes Paris region and 50 town maps
o  National Maps (red) - six including a France route planning map
o  Pocket Map France  - this is a new offering
o  Pocket Guide France - provides essential information for short breaks
o  Regional Maps - The entire country is covered in 18 maps, with the exception of Corsica.
o  Local Maps - 45 based upon départements of France, with one, two, three or four départements mapped for each, including Corsica
o  Zoom Maps - 7 maps focusing on key holiday destinations
o  City Maps - 7 of Paris, 1 of Lyon
o  Green Guides - France and 14 regions are covered in these invaluable, detailed guides which provide historical references, facts on gastronomy, landscape, culture and customs and in-depth looks at all the major towns and cities or famous sights in the region
o  Charming Places to Stay - features 1000 hotels and guesthouses in France, all under 80 euros per night
o The Michelin Guide:  Hotels & Restaurants - the world famous hotel and restaurant guide for France also contains town and city maps
o  Camping France - a selection of the best camp sites in the country including prices and rental information for mobile homes, bungalows and chalets.
o  Historical Maps - four reprints of 1947 maps depicting the battles of Normandy, Provence, Alsace and a map entitled Voie de la Liberté.

To order their handy catalog to determine which maps will best suit your next automobile excursion in France, telephone 1.888.610.5122 in the US, email them at or visit their on line catalog at Bonne route!


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