French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau revolutionized the way millions of people think about the world around them.

Photograph by Thomas Abercrombie, National Geographic
  • On June 25, 1997, French oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau died at age 87 in Paris, France. The famous explorer graduated from the French Naval Academy in 1933 and spent much of his life on or in water.


    Cousteau’s contributions to oceanography are myriad. He helped develop the Aqua Lung, a predecessor to contemporary scuba gear. He was able to document the use of echolocation among porpoise populations. He discovered the wreck of the Britannic, sister ship of the Titanic.


    Cousteau was also an avid conservationist, constantly calling attention to the far-reaching consequences of ocean pollution. He successfully lobbied against the dumping of radioactive waste, and was awarded several environmental prizes.


    Cousteau’s most long-lasting impact, however, may be as a filmmaker. Through movies and television series broadcast all over the world, Cousteau helped teach the world about pollution and its effects on the ocean and nearby coastal areas.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    avid Adjective


    broadcast Verb

    to transmit signals, especially for radio or television media.

    conservationist Noun

    person who works to preserve natural habitats.

    contemporary Adjective

    having to do with the present time period.

    document Verb

    to keep track of.

    echolocation Noun

    ability used by some animals to emit high-pitched sounds and determine an object's distance by the time it takes for those sounds to echo.

    explorer Noun

    person who studies unknown areas.

    Jacques Cousteau Noun

    (1910-1997) French aquatic explorer and scientist.

    myriad Noun

    large number of things.

    oceanographer Noun

    person who studies the ocean.

    pollution Noun

    introduction of harmful materials into the environment.

    Encyclopedic Entry: pollution
    predecessor Noun

    person or thing that held a title or position before someone or something else.

    radioactive Adjective

    having unstable atomic nuclei and emitting subatomic particles and radiation.

    scuba noun, adjective

    (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) portable device for breathing underwater.

    Titanic Noun

    luxury cruise ship that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1912.