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Auguste Piccard

Auguste Piccard was a Swiss-born explorer who investigated both the stratosphere and the depths of the ocean. Born in Basel, Switzerland, and educated at the Federal Polytechnic School, he became a professor of physics at the University of Brussels in 1922. On May 27, 1931, with his associate Paul Kipfer, he made the first manned balloon flight into the stratosphere, lifting off from Augsberg, Germany. They set a new altitude record of 51,961 feet (15,838 meters). For this flight, he designed the first pressurized cabin, which was made of aluminum. During the flight, Piccard gathered valuable information regarding the intensity of cosmic rays in the stratosphere and also recorded a wide range of stratospheric temperatures. In 1932, Piccard and Max Cosyns climbed to an altitude of 53,139 feet (16,197 meters). Piccard made a total of twenty-seven flights before he turned to exploring the ocean bottom.

Auguste Piccard

Auguste Piccard (1884-1962), drawn by Robert Kastor, 1932.

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Credits - Library of Congress


In 1947, Piccard built his first bathyscaphe, a vehicle used for deep-sea descents. It floated in water as a balloon floated in air and used ballast to maneuver with two propellers. In 1953, he launched his second bathyscaphe, the Trieste, which reached a depth of 10,300 feet (3,150 meters). In 1960, his son Jacques set a world depth record by descending to about 35,810 feet (10,915 meters).