French innovation gave us some of the finest food, wine and cheese the world has ever known. But France has also given the world some Inventions that many of us take for granted. Here are some important French inventions we use every day and their inventive inventors.
Important French Inventions From France
Where would we be without French innovation: the
These are just a fraction of the French inventions that have become essential modern conveniences that most people take for granted.
1) Personal Computer
French inventor: François Gernelle
In 1994, on the 20th anniversary of the micro-computer, François Gernelle was surprised to see a TV announcer report that his old boss, André Truong, was the inventor of the first micro-computer MICRAL.
After four years of legal battles in the “cour d’appel de Versailles,” Gernelle won the right to call himself the father or inventor of the micro-computer in 1998.
Despite being the inventor, neither Gernelle nor Truong made it rich from the microcomputer. According to Grenelle, they missed the boat in 1975 when Truong turned down a 2 million dollar offer from Honeywell to buy MICRAL and its software. Truong wanted 4 million.
French inventor: Father Marcel Audiffren
Father Marcel Audiffren needed to find a way to keep wine cool at the monastery, so he came up with a clunky contraption in 1894 to do just that.
General electrics, an American company, bought the patent and produced the first refrigeration machines for residential use in 1911 for nearly $1,000 a pop. That was almost twice the cost of a car back in the day. Thanks to evolving technological progress, these units now come in various sizes to suit all kinds of budgets.
French inventor: Barthélemy Thimonnier
The French don’t shy away from making their grievances known. After spending years creating the perfect
Thimonnier never became rich from his handy chain-stitching machine, and he died a poor man. Isaac Merrit Singer, an American marketing whizz, turned the tides on this French invention and made it a global success. His ingenious marketing strategies, coupled with installment plans, appealed to the modern woman, and they bought his Singer sewing machines in droves.
French inventor: Louis Pasteur
It’s practically impossible to go through school without learning about Louis Pasteur, inventor of the pasteurization process.
The French chemist and inventor discovered that germs were primarily responsible for food spoilage, busting a commonly held myth that spoilage was spontaneous.
His discovery led him to invent the pasteurization process that involved heating foods to kill the contaminating micro-organism.
By eliminating these contaminants, pasteurization makes food safe and able to store for longer periods. That’s why you can enjoy a glass of store-bought milk without worrying about it going bad right away. The process is now a critical part of food production industries worldwide.
5) Canned Foods
French inventor: Nicholas Appert, aka “the father of canning.”
Napoleon Bonaparte found it challenging to keep his French army well-fed. In 1800, he put up 12,000 francs as prize money to anyone who’d help solve this pressing problem and preserve food for an extended period.
It took almost a decade, but a Parisian chef and French confectioner named Nicolas Appert figured out a method to preserve food in hermetically sealed glass containers. He wrapped the containers in canvas before cooking them in hot boiling water and sealing them with wax.
Pierre Durand, another French man, introduced tin cans instead of glass jars, giving the process its signature name, canning.
6) The Camera Phone
Franco American inventor: Philippe Kahn
Although companies were seeking ways to infuse cameras and video phones with other communication capabilities, their efforts didn’t bear fruit until 1997.
Parisian Philippe Kahn created the first camera phone solution sharing pictures instantly on public networks. Kahn shared a picture of his newly born daughter to more than 2,000 friends, family, and colleagues spread across the world. Sophie’s picture was the first-ever image shared from a cell phone.
Pierre’s software and the production of a
French inventor: Alexandre Godefroy
French hairstylist, Alexandre Godefroy, gave the world its first
21 years later, in 1911, Gabriel Kazanjian, an Armenian-American inventor, patented the handheld blower.
8) The Calculator
French inventor: Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal invented the calculator in 1642 to help his father with his job as a tax collection supervisor in Rouen, France. He designed a machine that could subtract and add two numbers and perform division and multiplication through repeated subtraction and addition.
King Louis XIV gave Pascal the exclusive patent design to manufacture his calculating machine throughout France. Later, inventors built on pascal’s design to build faster calculators with more functionalities.
9) Modern Pencil lead
French inventor: Nicholas Jacques Conté
In 1795, a Mathematician, physicist and politician named Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot commissioned Nicholas Jacques Conté to find a solution for producing
10) Pencil Sharpener
French inventor: Bernard Lassimone
If it weren’t for French mathematician Bernard Lassimone, we might still be sharpening our
In 1828, Lassimone filed for a patent for “taille crayon,” the first mechanical pencil sharpener. It used two small metal files in a block of wood tilted at a right angle that slowly scraped and ground the pencil wood to create a tip. Although it was more accurate than using a knife, the process still took a considerable amount of time.
20 years later, In 1847, Thierry des Estivaux, another French man, improved the mechanical pencil sharpener device that we still use today. His design used a conical-shaped device that whittled away the wood at once when the pencil was twisted, making the sharpening process much quicker.
11) The Etch-A-Sketch
French inventor: André Cassagnes
- No batteries required
- No Wifi required
French electrical technician André Cassagnes created the world-famous red drawing toy that doesn’t require batteries or wifi.
He called his French invention the télécran aka L’Ecran Magique (the magic screen). Unfortunately, when he took it to market in the late 1950s, no manufacturer or investors were interested in it.
American company Ohio Art company must have seen something in this new fangled toy because they purchased the license for the toy, renamed it Etch-a-Sketch, marketed it like crazy, and by the 1960s, it was a must-have toy for kids. It hasn’t changed much since it was first invented, and it’s been sold in stores ever since.
12) Movie Cinema
French inventors: Lumière brothers
Two French cinema and photography pioneers, known as the Lumière brothers, invented and patented the Cinématographe in 1895, a camera, printer and
Cinematographe is the early term for several motion picture film mechanisms that gave its name to the words “cinema” and “cinematographer.”
Le Salon Indien du Grand Café was a room in the basement of the Grand Café, on the Boulevard des Capucines near the Place de l’Opéra in the center of Paris. It is notable for being the place that hosted
The first commercial public film screening by the Lumière brothers was held on December 28, 1895, in the basement of the Grand Café in a room called “Le Salon Indien du Grand Café.”
French inventor: Dom Perignon
Before becoming the name of a famous Champagne brand, Dom Perignon was the name of a 17th century French Benedictine monk from Champagne France. Dom was a title reserved for the Roman Catholic clergy and nobles.
It’s impossible to know for sure, and it’s been disputed by historians, but according to legend, Dom Perignon invented the process of turning wine into the bubbly French aperitif we know as Champagne in 1697 by accident. Fake news? We’ll never know.
French inventor: Louis Braille
Louis Braille is credited with inventing Braille in 1824, the tactile reading system for the visually impaired using raised dots that are still used today. However, Louis Braille could never have done it if it weren’t for Charles Barbier de La Serre, a French soldier in Napoleon Bonaparte’s army.
Charles Barbier was often stationed on the front line and witnessed fellow officers killed by snipers because the light they used to read maps or messages at night gave away their position and made them sitting ducks.
Charles created a system of night writing so that foot soldiers could send messages that could be read by touch. The only problem was that his superiors found his invention too impractical for soldiers in the field.
In 1821, convinced his system could help civilians, Charles Barnier went to the Royal Institute for Blind Youths in Paris, the first school of its kind for blind children.
Louis Braille was a 12-year-old blind student at that school. Louis Braille simplified Barbier’s system by reducing the number of dots to just three dots high by two across so that every letter of the alphabet and symbol could be quickly reproduced by hand and identified by touch.
French inventor: René-Théophile-Hyacinthe Laënnec
It’s well known that René Laënnec, a French physician invented the stethoscope and perfected the art of examining the chest cavity by sound; however, the story of how he invented it is not so well known.
Some stories say he was too shy to put his ear to a woman’s chest.
Physicians at the time used a technique called percussion and auscultation during physical examinations. The technique required striking the chest using fingertips and immediately placing their ear against the chest to listen. This method came with limitations like the inability to amplify sounds and required awkward physical contact with the patient.
During one examination, rather than using the percussion and auscultation techniques to listen to one of his female patients’ chest, he asked for a piece of paper. He then rolled it up into a cylinder, placed it against the patient’s chest, and was surprised at how well he could hear her heart.
He then went on to create the first stethoscope, which was a hollow tube of wood. He put one end on the chest of patients and his ear on the other end.
16) Quinine: Original anti-malarial drug
French inventor: Pierre Joseph Pelletier and Joseph Caventou
Quinine is a substance made from the bark of the South-American Cinchona tree or (Kina-Kina) native to Peru, effective in curing Malaria, which is deadly if not treated.
The Kina Bark had been used to treat Malaria since at least 1632.
Originally the bark had to be dried, then ground to a fine powder, and mixed into a liquid (usually alcohol), which would then be drunk by the Malaria stricken patients. Tonic water, which contains Quinine, was also marketed as a means of delivering quinine anti-malarial protection.
In 1820, two French scientists named Pierre Joseph Pelletier and Joseph Caventou isolated the Quinine element in the bark. Purified Quinine then replaced the bark as the standard treatment for Malaria. It was the first effective chemical compound cure ever created for an infectious disease.
After World War II, other drugs with fewer side effects, such as chloroquine, replaced Quinine as a malaria treatment.
Quinine created a new breed of
Quinine was very bitter. The French government put out a call for a palatable way to get French troops in malaria-ravaged countries such as Africa /Algeria to get enough Quinine to fight Malaria.
This kicked off a new breed of French apéritif drinks with Quinine such as Lilet, Dubonnet, and St Raphael.
British soldiers in India mixed gin ad tonic water and lime to make the bitter Quinine more palatable, which gave birth to the famous gin and tonic cocktail still popular today.
17) The modern bras
French inventor: Herminie Cadolle
Women around the world have a female French inventor and feminist Herminie Cadolle (1845–1926) to thank for the modern bras.
Before she invented the modern bras, women wore tight, restrictive and uncomfortable corsets first introduced to the French royal court by Catherine de Medici in the 1500s.
Herminie took the design of a traditional corset and cut it into two pieces that were meant to be worn together. The upper “bras” part supported the breasts with shoulder straps, and the lower part was a corset for the waist. She called her bras and corset ensemble a “corselet gorge” but later renamed it “le bien-être” (the well-being.) Her invention first appeared in a corset magazine in 1889, and by 1905, women could buy the upper half of the corset separately as a soutien-gorge, the French word which bras are still known in French.
The Cadolle lingerie house is still family-owned.
18) The Polo Shirt
French inventor: Jean René Lacoste
Almost every man has owned the versatile Polo shirt; for work, sports, or streetwear.
Despite its name, Polo shirts were first designed for tennis by French tennis player Jean René Lacoste (1904 –1996). He was one of the world’s top tennis players in the 1920’s. But if the name Lacoste sounds familiar, it’s because he is also the founder of the world-famous sports fashion label Lacoste.
Tennis shirts were originally very restrictive, formal looking with long sleeves and a button-up white collar. Lacoste designed a more comfortable tennis shirt with short-sleeves and short flat collars which he wore for the first time at the 1926 U.S. Open championship. After he retired from tennis, he began mass-producing and selling his Tennis shirts in 1933.
Polo players adopted the tennis shirt in the 1930s, and by the 1950s, Lacoste’s tennis shirt became commonly known as the polo shirt.
19) Percolation system & the 1st drip coffee maker (“La Débéloire” or “Le Dubelloire”)
French inventor: Jean-Baptiste de Belloy
Where would the world be without coffee and French cafés? Although the French didn’t invent coffee or coffee houses, they did contribute to its success.
Around 1800, Jean-Baptiste de Belloy, the Archbishop of Paris invented the first drip coffee maker called the La Débéloire” or “Le Dubelloire.” His inventive coffee maker was simple but effective. It involved stacking two containers, separated by a compartment holding coffee grounds. You had to pour boiling water into the top container; meanwhile, the coffee slowly absorbed the water and trickled into the bottom container as drinkable coffee.
If you’ve ever had a Vietnamese Iced Coffee (Cafe Sua Da), then you’ve already used a débéloire.