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Meet the Icons - Scientists & Inventors

Four of France's greatest Scientists & Inventors

In the world of innovation, discovery and science, few nations have produced more iconic and important figures than France.

Meet the scientists & inventors

  1. Marie Curie
  2. Louis Pasteur
  3. Louis Braille
  4. Lumière Brothers

Marie Curie

1867 - 1934

Polish-born physicist and chemist who investigated radioactivity. Known as the 'mother of modern physics'.

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less”.

Marie Curie (1867 - 1934)
Marie Curie (1867 - 1934)

After discovering polonium and radium, Marie was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903 (the first female Nobel prize winner). Teaching at the Sorbonne, she was awarded a second Nobel Prize, for Chemistry, in 1911, becoming the first person and only woman to win twice).

She struggled in a male-dominated world and her health deteriorated as the effects of working with radiation took their toll. She died in 1934 from aplastic anemia. Because of her lifelong workings with radiation, her body and many of her belongings are highly radioactive. She is buried in a lead-lined coffin in France’s Panthéon, a mausoleum in Paris.

Why an icon?

Her work pioneered x-rays in surgery and she even drove war-time ambulances carrying such equipment to the front lines herself.


Louis Pasteur

1822 - 1895

Invented pasteurisation, whereby heat is used to kill bacteria.

“A bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world”.

Louis Pasteur (1822 - 1895)
Louis Pasteur (1822 - 1895)

Pasteur proved that food ‘went off’ due to contamination by airborne microbes, and that these could in turn cause disease. He went on to demonstrate how controlled heat could kill bacteria, allowing his work to save the wine industry (contaminated wines were harming export sales) and the silk industry (silk worms were suffering from parasites).

His discoveries also led the fight against diphtheria, TB, smallpox and cholera.

Why an icon?

He changed healthcare forever, with antiseptics and vaccines resulting from his work saving many millions of lives.


Louis Braille

1809 - 1852

Inventor of a reading system for the blind.

“Access to communication in the widest sense is access to knowledge".

Louis Braille (1809 - 1852)
Louis Braille (1809 - 1852)

Himself blinded at the young age of three, Braille created a raised dot system or code that enabled blind people to read and write. Since his death, the system has gained global acceptance.

Based on a concept devised for military use by Charles Barbier, the system is based on six dots lined up in two columns, with different combinations of dots relating to different letters and punctuation.

Why an icon?

His invention opened up the world to millions and remains powerful today, with braille computer terminals and email systems.


Lumière Brothers

Auguste 1862-1954 and Louis 1864 - 1948

Louis and Auguste were pioneers in the moving image and colour photography.

“The cinema is an invention without any future”.
- Louis Lumière

The Lumière Brothers (Auguste 1862-1954 and Louis 1864 - 1948)
The Lumière Brothers (Auguste 1862-1954 and Louis 1864 - 1948)

In 1895 the brothers had developed their Cinematographe, a combination camera and projector. This improved on Edison’s earlier Kinetoscope camera, being smaller, lighter and requiring less film.

By this time their ‘Blue Label’ photographic plates, simplifying the development process, were already earning them £12m a year (equivalent to £1.4bn in 2019). They also went on to invent Autochrome colour photography plates and, ultimately, change the form of public entertainment forever.

Why an icon?

Pioneering inventors of the film making process and the first viable film camera.


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