French oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau published one of his most famous works, “The Silent World,” on Feb. 3, 1953. The book detailed his early underwater explorations, made possible through his own invention: the Aqua-Lung, or the first scuba.
Cousteau served in the French navy and wanted to develop a self-contained underwater breathing device, so divers did not have to be tethered to the surface. He designed the Aqua-Lung with help from engineer Emile Gagnan, then developed underwater cameras and photography. He used his new inventions to explore shipwrecks for the navy, and explored ancient wrecks and sea life as a hobby.
He published a memoir, “The Silent World,” in 1953, and began work on a film version with director Louis Malle. It was released to global acclaim three years later, winning Best Documentary at the Academy Awards and the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. The film revealed the underwater world to the public for the first time.
Cousteau went on to earn many awards and accolades, develop several additions and improvements to scuba, and become a passionate environmentalist. He died June 25, 1997, at the age of 87, but his message has been preserved in his many books and films, and by the Cousteau Society and Equipe Cousteau.