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The Most Famous

INVENTORS from France

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This page contains a list of the greatest French Inventors. The pantheon dataset contains 354 Inventors, 36 of which were born in France. This makes France the birth place of the 4th most number of Inventors behind United Kingdom and Germany.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary French Inventors of all time. This list of famous French Inventors is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of French Inventors.

Photo of Louis Braille

1. Louis Braille (1809 - 1852)

With an HPI of 78.84, Louis Braille is the most famous French Inventor.  His biography has been translated into 79 different languages on wikipedia.

Louis Braille (; French: [lwi bʁɑj]; 4 January 1809 – 6 January 1852) was a French educator and the inventor of a reading and writing system, named braille after him, intended for use by visually impaired people. His system is used worldwide and remains virtually unchanged to this day. Braille was blinded at the age of three in one eye as a result of an accident with a stitching awl in his father's harness making shop. Consequently, an infection set in and spread to both eyes, resulting in total blindness. At that time there were not many resources in place for the blind, but he nevertheless excelled in his education and received a scholarship to France's Royal Institute for Blind Youth. While still a student there, he began developing a system of tactile code that could allow blind people to read and write quickly and efficiently. Inspired by a system invented by Charles Barbier, Braille's new method was more compact and lent itself to a range of uses, including music. He presented his work to his peers for the first time in 1824, when he was fifteen years old. In adulthood, Braille served as a professor at the Institute and had an avocation as a musician, but he largely spent the remainder of his life refining and extending his system. It went unused by most educators for many years after his death, but posterity has recognized braille as a revolutionary invention, and it has been adapted for use in languages worldwide.

Photo of Rudolf Diesel

2. Rudolf Diesel (1858 - 1913)

With an HPI of 76.24, Rudolf Diesel is the 2nd most famous French Inventor.  His biography has been translated into 82 different languages.

Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel (English: , German: [ˈdiːzl̩] (listen); 18 March 1858 – 29 September 1913) was a German inventor and mechanical engineer who is famous for having invented the diesel engine, which burns diesel fuel; both are named after him.

Photo of Louis Daguerre

3. Louis Daguerre (1787 - 1851)

With an HPI of 74.64, Louis Daguerre is the 3rd most famous French Inventor.  His biography has been translated into 75 different languages.

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre ( (listen) də-GAIR, French: [lwi ʒɑk mɑ̃de daɡɛʁ]; 18 November 1787 – 10 July 1851) was a French artist and photographer, recognized for his invention of the eponymous daguerreotype process of photography. He became known as one of the fathers of photography. Though he is most famous for his contributions to photography, he was also an accomplished painter, scenic designer, and a developer of the diorama theatre.

Photo of Nicéphore Niépce

4. Nicéphore Niépce (1765 - 1833)

With an HPI of 73.51, Nicéphore Niépce is the 4th most famous French Inventor.  His biography has been translated into 58 different languages.

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (French: [nisefɔʁ njɛps]; 7 March 1765 – 5 July 1833), commonly known or referred to simply as Nicéphore Niépce, was a French inventor, usually credited with the invention of photography. Niépce developed heliography, a technique he used to create the world's oldest surviving product of a photographic process: a print made from a photoengraved printing plate in 1825. In 1826 or 1827, he used a primitive camera to produce the oldest surviving photograph of a real-world scene. Among Niépce's other inventions was the Pyréolophore, one of the world's first internal combustion engines, which he conceived, created, and developed with his older brother Claude Niépce.

Photo of Denis Papin

5. Denis Papin (1647 - 1712)

With an HPI of 70.25, Denis Papin is the 5th most famous French Inventor.  His biography has been translated into 51 different languages.

Denis Papin FRS (French pronunciation: ​[dəni papɛ̃]; 22 August 1647 – 26 August 1713) was a French physicist, mathematician and inventor, best known for his pioneering invention of the steam digester, the forerunner of the pressure cooker and of the steam engine.

Photo of Joseph Marie Jacquard

6. Joseph Marie Jacquard (1752 - 1834)

With an HPI of 69.76, Joseph Marie Jacquard is the 6th most famous French Inventor.  His biography has been translated into 44 different languages.

Joseph Marie Charles dit (called or nicknamed) Jacquard (French: [ʒakaʁ]; 7 July 1752 – 7 August 1834) was a French weaver and merchant. He played an important role in the development of the earliest programmable loom (the "Jacquard loom"), which in turn played an important role in the development of other programmable machines, such as an early version of digital compiler used by IBM to develop the modern day computer.

Photo of Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot

7. Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot (1725 - 1804)

With an HPI of 68.84, Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot is the 7th most famous French Inventor.  His biography has been translated into 40 different languages.

Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot (26 February 1725 – 2 October 1804) was a French inventor who built the world's first full-size and working self-propelled mechanical land-vehicle, the "Fardier à vapeur" – effectively the world's first automobile.

Photo of Nicolas Appert

8. Nicolas Appert (1749 - 1841)

With an HPI of 68.60, Nicolas Appert is the 8th most famous French Inventor.  His biography has been translated into 82 different languages.

Nicolas Appert (17 November 1749 – 1 June 1841) was a French confectioner and inventor who, in the early 19th century, invented airtight food preservation. Appert, known as the "father of food science", described his invention as a way "of conserving all kinds of food substances in containers".

Photo of Louis Blériot

9. Louis Blériot (1872 - 1936)

With an HPI of 65.55, Louis Blériot is the 9th most famous French Inventor.  His biography has been translated into 51 different languages.

Louis Charles Joseph Blériot ( BLERR-ee-oh, also US: BLAY-ree-oh, -⁠OH, blair-YOH, French: [lwi bleʁjo]; 1 July 1872 – 1 August 1936) was a French aviator, inventor, and engineer. He developed the first practical headlamp for cars and established a profitable business manufacturing them, using much of the money he made to finance his attempts to build a successful aircraft. Blériot was the first to use the combination of hand-operated joystick and foot-operated rudder control as used to the present day to operate the aircraft control surfaces. Blériot was also the first to make a working, powered, piloted monoplane. In 1909 he became world-famous for making the first airplane flight across the English Channel, winning the prize of £1,000 offered by the Daily Mail newspaper. He was the founder of Blériot Aéronautique, a successful aircraft manufacturing company.

Photo of Louis Renault

10. Louis Renault (1877 - 1944)

With an HPI of 65.34, Louis Renault is the 10th most famous French Inventor.  His biography has been translated into 33 different languages.

Louis Renault (French: [lwi ʁəno]; 12 February 1877 – 24 October 1944) was a French industrialist, one of the founders of Renault, and a pioneer of the automobile industry. Renault built one of France's largest automobile manufacturing concerns, which still bears his name. During World War I his factories contributed massively to the war effort, notably so by the creation and manufacture of the first tank of modern configuration, the Renault FT tank. Accused of collaborating with the Germans during World War II, he died while awaiting trial in liberated France toward the end of 1944 under uncertain circumstances. His company was seized and nationalized by the provisional government of France although he died before he could be tried. His factories were the only ones permanently expropriated by the French government.In 1956, Time magazine described Renault as "rich, powerful and famous, cantankerous, brilliant, often brutal, the little Napoleon of an automaking empire — vulgar, loud, domineering, impatient, he was a terror to associates, a friend to practically none," adding that to the French working man, Renault became known as "the ogre of Billancourt."

Pantheon has 36 people classified as inventors born between 1510 and 1978. Of these 36, 1 (2.78%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living inventors include Franky Zapata. The most famous deceased inventors include Louis Braille, Rudolf Diesel, and Louis Daguerre.

Living Inventors

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Deceased Inventors

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Which Inventors were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Inventors since 1700.