Inspiring Stories
1-Jacques Piccard

Jacques Piccard

Class of 1948
Oceanographer and Engineer

Jacques Piccard is a Swiss oceanographer and engineer who designed many submarine models for his deep sea explorations. Born in Brussels, Belgium in 1922, Piccard is best known for his work preventing the stockpiling of nuclear waste in the Mariana Trench, the deepest point in the western Pacific Ocean. In 1960, he dived with American Lieutenant Don Walsh and found signs of life 10,916 metres deep. He then tried to illustrate the environmental issues related to the underwater world. As one of the earliest ecologists, he stated that “the population does not yet perceive the importance and seriousness of the pollution problem”.

His life of adventure began with his father, Auguste Piccard. Jacques had accompanied his father on expeditions since the age of 24. Before turning 30, with his father, he designed and built the Bathyscaphe Trieste submarine, capable of diving to 3,150 metres below sea level. Jacques Piccard’s love of exploration is hereditary and his son, Bertrand, is also an explorer. The Piccard family name represents: “ breakthrough, courage, change, and ecology!”.

It was a historical moment in 1960 when Jacques Piccard dived into the Mariana Trench. It took nine hours to descend 10,916 metres with Don Walsh. The purpose of this dive was to analyse the ocean floor, where Americans were aiming to stockpile nuclear waste. Due to the signs of life and human waste they came across, the nuclear waste project was abandoned. Piccard’s ecological and environmental concerns predate his politics, and this dive allowed him to share the impact humans have on the world.

In 1969, Jacques Piccard worked on Gulf Stream currents research, where he spent a month in his submarine, the Ben-Franklin, working with professionals from the US Navy and NASA. This research helped NASA officers prepare for space missions, as they learned how to live in confinement during this dive.

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Jacques Piccard