PICCARD, August A. (1884 - 1962)

Auguste Antoine Piccard was a Swiss physicist, inventor and explorer. He and his twin brother Jean Felix were born in Basel, Switzerland on 28 January 1884. Showing an intense interest in science as a child, he attended the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, and became a professor of physics in Brussels at the Free University of Brussels in 1922, the same year his son Jacques Piccard was born.

In 1930, an interest in ballooning, and a curiosity about the upper atmosphere led him to design a spherical, pressurized aluminum gondola that would allow ascent to great altitude without requiring a pressure suit. He constructed with funds from the Belgian Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS).

On 27 May 1931, Piccard and Paul Kipfer took off from Augsburg, Germany, and reached a then record altitude of 15,785 m (51,788 ft). During this flight, Piccard was able to gather substantial data on the upper atmosphere, as well as measure cosmic rays. A year later, on 18 August, Piccard and Max Cosyns made a second record-breaking ascent to 16,200 m (53,150 ft) from Dübendorf, Switzerland.

In the mid-1930s, Piccard's interests shifted when he realized that a modification of his high altitude balloon cockpit would allow descent into the deep ocean, by 1937 construction began, but the task was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. Resumed in 1945, the craft was named FNRS-2 and made a number of unmanned dives in 1948 before being given to the French Navy in 1950. There, it was redesigned, and in 1954, it took a man safely down 4,176 m (13,701 ft).

Auguste died of Heart Failure on his home in Lausanne, Switzerland on 24 March 1962.

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