(1910-) French oceanographer who pioneered the invention of the aqualung 1943 and techniques in underwater filming. In 1951 he began the first of many research voyages in the ship Calypso. His film and television documentaries and books established him as a household name.
Cousteau was born in the Gironde. He joined the navy and worked for naval intelligence during the Nazi occupation. From 1936 he experimented with diving techniques. The compressed air cylinder had been invented 1933 but restricted the diver to very short periods of time beneath the surface. Testing new breathing equipment, Cousteau was several times nearly killed.
In 1942 Cousteau met Emile Gagnan, an expert on industrial gas equipment. Gagnan had designed an experimental demand valve for feeding gas to automobile engines. Together, Gagnan and Cousteau developed a self-contained compressed air “lung”, the aqualung. In June 1943 Cousteau made his first dive with it, achieving a depth of 18 m/60 ft.