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Jacques Cousteau

Jacques Cousteau Photo

Jacques-Yves Cousteau was born on 11th June 1910, in Saint-André-de-Cubzac, France. As a child, Cousteau was not blessed with a strong constitution and doctors advised his parents to keep him away from any strenuous activity. Yet he learned to swim and showed an extraordinary love for water and the sea.

Cousteau’s track record at the school was not very impressive and he was expelled numerous times due to bad behavior. In 1930 Cousteau was sent to the Ecole Navale, France’s naval academy, in Brest. On passing out from the academy three years later he was inducted into the French navy. In 1936 he was presented with a pair of underwater goggles, which impressed Cousteau so much that he immediately started developing a device which would help human’s breath underwater. However, with the onset of WWII, such plans were pushed to aside and Cousteau joined the army as a gunnery officer. After the war, he was awarded the prestigious Legion d’Honneur for showing valor during the war. But even WWII could not completely distract Cousteau for his love of the sea. In 1942, he developed the “Aqua-Lung”; a device which enabled underwater breathing. Postwar, Cousteau helped the French navy clear mines from the French seas and one of the vessels used for this particular mission later became Cousteau’s research ship, the Calypso.

Aboard Calypso

Calypso’s first research voyage brought together numerous great minds from various fields of marine science. Along with the maritime crew of the ship, Claypso also hosted marine biologists, academic scientists, and marine photographers. The studies conducted on these expeditions helped in uncovering many mysteries of the deep sea, such as its underwater flora and fauna, all of which was extensively photographed as well. Often these expeditions were financed by the French Ministry of Education.

Raising awareness

In 1960 Cousteau joined the movement to successfully prevent the French Government from dumping its nuclear waste into the Mediterranean Sea. Over the years Cousteau stayed an active participant in the advancement and welfare of ocean ecology. In 1959 he helped organize the first World Oceanic Congress. His address at the event earned him much acclaim nationally as well as internationally and he even appeared on the cover of Time Magazine the following year.

In 1961, at a ceremony held at the White House and hosted by President John F. Kennedy, the National Geographic awarded Cousteau their Gold in return for his services to nature. But what truly made Cousteau a household name, were his charismatic television programs about his work and voyages around the world. In 1966 his first hour-long documentary, “The World of Jacques-Yves Cousteau,” was aired. The documentary not only got a high viewer rating but was well received by the critics as well, leading to Cousteau landing a contract with the American Broadcasting Company (ABC)in 1968, for a series of documentaries named:”The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau”. This series kept audiences mesmerized with the mystery and beauty of the sea and all its creatures for almost eight years making Cousteau and his sons, Philippe and Jean-Michel the most well known marine activists of the time. In 1975, this team of celebrity father and sons laid the foundations for the Cousteau Society, an international organization striving to raise awareness about marine pollution. Today the Cousteau Society has branches all over the world.

Death & Legacy

In 1885, Jacques Cousteau was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in honor of his services and achievements. In 1987 he became part of the Television Academy’s Hall of Fame, and also received the founder’s award from the International Council of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. In 1988 he was awarded the Centennial Award by the National Geographic Society and in 1989; he was given membership to France’s prestigious Academy.

Cousteau died on 25th June 1997 in Paris, at the age of eighty-seven. Some critics have failed to acknowledge Cousteau’s work due to his lack of scientific credentials, but Cousteau never claimed to be an expert and all he wanted to do throughout his life was protect marine life and raise awareness about sea pollution and for that, he proved to be the most qualified expert who ever lived.

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