Whilst shopping in Paris I got talking to one of the local tradesman about French produce. I discovered that France whilst being well known for baguettes, patisseries and fine fashion, is also a country that has given us a whole host of inventions, discoveries and theories. Some of them I was extremely surprised by so I thought I’d share with you my top 15 French things that you didn’t know were French.
The first photographic image ever produced was by a man called Nicéphore Niépce in 1822. At first a complicated and tiresome process, his work gave birth to the film camera and all those old Polaroid’s you have of your parents
2. Oxygen and Hydrogen
3. Probability Theory
Ever sat bored out of your mind in a math’s class working out the probability coins being flipped or thrown dice? Well you can blame Pierre de Fermat and Blaise Pascal for the invention of Probability Theory. Created in the seventeenth century with Gerolamo Cardano and Christiaan Huygens, the theory is still used today much to the dismay of school children everywhere.
4. The Taxi
Although arguably used long before this time, the first documented taxi service was attributed to Nicolas Sauvage in Paris in 1640. This novel idea has helped us nearly 400 years later, to escape the rain and the ache of sore feet freshly freed from high heels.
If only they were all as fast as this picture portrays.
Named one of the best inventions EVER, Denim has transformed workwear and fashion forever. The word ‘denim’ comes from the name of a sturdy fabric called serge, originally made in de Nîmes, France. Levi Strauss, a keen entrepreneur spotted the market for hardwearing strong clothing for gold diggers and land workers and set up his Californian factory, the rest as they say is history.
Thank God for Denim!
That stuff that’s really not the same as butter, was invented by Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès in 1869. With a minimum fat content of 80%, margarine is the cheaper but not necessarily healthier alternative to butter. Banned in many countries or heavily taxed due to its effects on the dairy industry, margarine was never really been an amazing alternative to butter until its definition expanded into any butter substitute. Now perfect for yummy baking with a healthier, cheaper tagline, here’s to margarine!
7. The Hairdryer
A necessity for every woman and some long locked men: the hairdryer. The original hair scorcher was invented by Alexandre Godefroy in 1879 and swiftly became a must-have for the upper classes (and people with working electricity in their homes). With this handy invention, it’s no wonder the French are world renowned for their coiffured do’s!
Nicole Ritchie sporting another of the French contributions to hair, the French plait
8. Pasteurised Milk
Louis Pasteur was the first person to understand the connection between microbes and disease. Through the development of the pasteurization process (a method of killing the microbes in milk by heating to a temperature high enough to kill the germs, but not so high that it spoils the taste). Pasteur’s efforts in this field and in vaccinations, has saved literally millions from disease and infection.
9. The Aqualung
The breathing apparatus that supplies oxygen to divers, allowing them to stay underwater for several hours was invented in 1943 by Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Emile Gagnan. They also developed a mechanism that allowed divers to inhale and exhale at the same level. This was the first modern scuba system and has allowed us to explore the seas and oceans safely and effectively for the past 68 years.
Scuba Dogs like to explore too!
10. The Battery
Although the first chemical battery as invented in 1800 by the Italian physicist, Alessandro Volta, the more convenient, cost effective and efficient storage batteries (those that can be recharged) were invented by the French physicist Gaston Plante. Aiding us to power pretty much anything without a direct electric current these batteries have helped us all out on camping trips, in power cuts and on the go. Probably one of the most useful inventions ever.
If only we were all as energetic
11. The Bicycle
The first bicycle was more like a wooden scooter, called a celerifere. Invented around 1790 by Comte Mede de Sivrac of France. The Germans then added in a steering bar over 25 years later. The collaboration work between the two countries created a prototype of the modern bike and was exhibited in Paris on April 6, 1818.
Bicycle Suits for the keen cyclists of 1896
12. The Hot-air Balloon
Providing families with a ‘nice day out’, the hot air balloon is a fabulous and daring feat of design and engineering. Invented by Joseph and Jacques Etienne Montgolfier in 1782, it was first made of paper and used air heated by burning wool and moist straw. The first passengers in a hot-air balloon were a rooster, a sheep, and a duck, on September 19, 1783. The trip lasted for 8 minutes and the animals (thankfully) survived the landing. King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette of France observed this momentous event.
The animals came in two by two…
Invented in 1756 by the French chef working for the Duke de Richelieu. His ideas were captured and sold in the US in 1905 at Richard Hellmann’s deli in New York. Hellmann sold his wife’s mayonnaise in open wooden boat and in 1912, he sold the mayonnaise in large glass bottles. The secret ingredient to a cheaters Marie-Rose sauce and perfect mash, mayonnaise is still almost identical to the first batch Hellmann’s produced.
It must be used with FRESH SALAD!
14. The “Lead” Pencil
The lead pencil, which contains absolutely no lead, was invented in 1564 when a huge graphite mine was discovered in England. The pure graphite was sawn into sheets and cut into square rods, which were then inserted into hand-carved wooden holders, forming pencils. They were called lead pencils by mistake as the newly discovered graphite was called ‘black lead’ or “plumbago,” from the Latin word for lead ore. In 1795, Nicholas Jacques Conte took away England’s monopoly on graphite and patented the modern method of kiln-firing powdered graphite with clay to make graphite rods for pencils.
Paul Lung, a Hong Kong pencil artist loves his sketchy background.
15. The Metric System
The bane of UK butcher’s and greengrocer’s lives, the metric system was invented in 1790 by the Academy of Sciences of Paris in an effect to standardise the units of measurement. 1000 meters. The metric system was passed by law in France on August 1, 1793. It took another 202 years for the UK to make this measurement system compulsory and the law is still flouted by those preferring to weight meat and veg in lb’s and oz’s! A pound of meat just sounds better than 453.59 grams.
3050g of apples please!
- Sarah Powell enjoys many of the things the French have to offer, mainly the cakes and breads. She also writes for her own blog http://thethingsifind.tumblr.com/