If you don't live in France, you cannot imagine how many
technologies we, French people, have invented in the last two
centuries. Or claim we have invented.
The French invented airplanes.
In French schools, we learn that the first airplane was built by a French
engineer named Clément Ader in 1890. He even invented the french word
for 'airplane' ('avion', from the Latin 'avis'). Then we learn that
the Wright Brothers enhanced Ader's invention.
The real thing is that it depends on what you call an airplane. Ader's
machine could only fly (you may say jump) on a few dozen meters, and it could not really be controlled because of its steam engine. Make your
own opinion, but my guess is that the evolution of airplanes benefitted
more from the Wright Bros than from Mr. Ader.
The French invented cinema
This time, the brothers are on the French side. Auguste and Louis
Lumière allegedly invented the cinema in 1895. Again, it depends on
what you call cinema. Thomas Edison may have invented the first filming
machines, but the Lumière brothers invented the
projector and public screenings. Make your own opinion, but I think
movies look better on a large screen than in Edison's individual
The French invented photography.
Photography was invented by Nicéphore Niepce and Louis Daguerre. Nobody
in France will have any doubt about this fact. Even I had no doubt until I
made some research on the Web.
In the English-speaking world, William Henry Fox Talbot is sometimes
seen as the inventor of photography. He invented photography on paper,
and published his invention a few months before Daguerre in 1839, but
Niepce had made the first photographs long before, in 1827. Make your
The French invented cars.
In high school, French pupils learn that the first thing that looked more
or less like a car was the Cugnot Carriage, an ugly steam-powered machine
built by Nicolas Cugnot in 1769. They do not hear very much about
German inventors Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler, who both patented
their internal combustion engine cars in 1886. They hear more about
Panhard and Levassor, or Citroën and Renault, who came later. Another
French inventor is Etienne Lenoir, who built an automobile that worked
with oil in the 1860s or 1870s.
The Americans have a candidate: Henry Ford. Actually he invented
affordable cars (Ford Model T), and the American car industry.
The French invented micro-computers.
Not one, but two Frenchmen say they invented the first micro-computer. A
few years ago, André Truong said on television that he had invented the
first micro-computer in 1973; even the Wall Street Journal talked about
him. Then François Gernelle, a former employee of Truong, claimed
he was the real inventor. Gernelle sued Truong, and he
won. The machine was called Micral, and it was a commercial failure, as
most French inventions when the government does not provides strong
Of course, the Americans also pretend they have invented
micro-computers. After all, they have invented most of the technology
inside the computer. Ken Polsson's very thorough chronology of
micro-computing (1) doesn't even mention the names of Truong
and Gernelle, and nobody has noded them in E2 at the time of this
writing. Non-French inventors or contributors are Steve Wozniak, the
Mits company (Altair 8800) and many others.
So where is the truth? Apparently Micral was the first micro-computer
commercialized as a finished product, while others were only sold as a
kit. My opinion is that of course the American inventors deserve most of
The French invented smart cards.
Roland Moreno, a former journalist, invented payment cards with an
embedded microchip in 1974, and everybody has been using them in
France since the 80s.
Although Moreno is usually considered as the inventor, there are a few
other candidates from Germany, Japan, and, of course, the United
The French invented the Web.
No, nobody really claims such a thing. With the Minitel, however, the
French telecom company probably invented the first very popular online,
interactive service. Minitel had millions of users in the 80s. The only
problem with Minitel is that it still exists.
(2) alt.technology.smartcards FAQ: http://www.scdk.com/atsfaq.htm
Thanks to Uberfetus for a precision on Clément Ader's machine.