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Jean Piccard

AKA Jean Felix Piccard

Born: 28-Jan-1884
Birthplace: Basel, Switzerland
Died: 28-Jan-1963
Location of death: Minneapolis, MN
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Anglican/Episcopalian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Aviator, Inventor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Extreme balloonist

Military service: Swiss Army (1915-16)

Jean Piccard studied chemistry and worked for several years as Adolf von Baeyer's personal assistant, but he is far better known as a balloon aviator. He made his first balloon flight in 1913, accompanied by his twin Auguste. In 1933 the brothers designed the Century of Progress, an experimental balloon displayed at the Chicago World's Fair, and Jean Piccard led the Century of Progress research team in investigation of cosmic rays at high altitudes. On 23 Oct 1934, accompanied by his wife, he set a record with a flight to the stratosphere, 17,672 meters or almost eleven miles above the ground. He designed and flew the first practical plastic balloon in 1936, and the following year he made the first manned multi-celled balloon flight, using 98 tethered rubber balloons together and shooting the balloons one-by-one with his revolver to bring the craft back to the surface. Using his knowledge of chemistry he invented frost-resistant windows for balloon gondolas, and an electronic device for controlling the release of ballast bags. He also co-designed the first polyethylene high-altitude balloon.

His wife and frequent flight companion, chemist Jeannette Ridlon Piccard, was an aeronautics expert and consultant to NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center, and was one of eleven women who in 1973 became the first female priests ordained in the Episcopal Church. Their son, Don Piccard (b. 1926), is a well-known balloonist and a leading American manufacturer of high-altitude balloons. Jean Piccard's twin brother Auguste Piccard was a physics professor who explained the principle of the pressurized cockpit, invented the bathyscaph for pressurized deep-sea diving, and in a 1931 balloon flight to 16,000 meters became the first human to view the Earth's curvature. Jacques Piccard (b. 1922), Auguste Piccard's son and Jean Piccard's nephew, is a hydronaut and submarine developer who, with his diving companion Don Walsh, holds the record for the deepest underwater descent, to 10,911 meters (35,797 feet) in the Mariana Trench in 1961. Bertrand Piccard (b. 1958), Jacques Piccard's son and Jean Piccard's grand-nephew, was the first balloonist to circle the globe non-stop, accomplishing the feat in 19 days in 1999. Jean-Luc Picard, captain of the Star Ship Enterprise, was named by Star Trek's creator Gene Roddenberry as a tribute to Jean and Auguste Piccard.

Father: Jules Piccard (chemistry professor, b. 1840, d. 1933)
Mother: Jeanne Christian Hélène Haltenhoff Piccard (b. 1850, m. 1873)
Sister: Marie Louise Piccard Rambert (b. 1876, d. 1963)
Brother: Paul Georges Piccard (b. 1874, d. 1966)
Brother: Auguste Piccard (physicist-balloonist, his twin, b. 28-Jan-1884, d. 24-Mar-1962)
Wife: Jeanette Ridlon Piccard (chemist-balloonist, b. 5-Jan-1895, m. 1919, d. 17-May-1981)
Son: John Augustus Piccard (b. 1920)
Son: Paul Jules Piccard (b. 1924)
Son: Donald Louis Piccard (balloonist, b. 1926)

    University: BS Chemical Engineering, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (1907)
    University: DSc Organic Chemistry, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (1909)
    Teacher: Chemistry, University of Munich (1909-14)
    Teacher: Chemistry, University of Chicago (1916-19)
    Teacher: Chemistry, Lausanne University (1919-26)
    Teacher: Organic Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1926-29)
    Teacher: Bartol Research Institute, University of Delaware (1933-36)
    Professor: Aeronautical Engineering, University of Minnesota (1936-52)

    International Aerospace Hall of Fame
    Hercules Director of Organic Research (1929-32)
    American Cyanamid Chemist (1924-26)
    American Chemical Society
    Naturalized US Citizen 1931
    Swiss Ancestry


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