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Albert Caquot, wearing a dark suit in the foreground, in École Polytechnique premises, Paris, ca 1900.
|Born||1 July 1881|
|Died||28 November 1976 (aged 95)|
|Education||École Polytechnique, 1899|
Ponts et Chaussées
|Occupation||engineer and inventor|
Albert Irénée Caquot (1 July 1881 - 28 November 1976) was considered as the "best living French engineer" during half a century. He received the "Croix de Guerre 1914-1918 (France)" (military honor) and was Grand-croix of the Légion d'Honneur (1951). He was a member of the French Academy of Sciences from 1934 till his death. In 1962, he was awarded the Wilhelm Exner Medal.
His parents, Paul Auguste Ondrine Caquot and wife Marie Irma (born Cousinard) owned a family farm in Vouziers, in the Ardennes, near the Belgian border. His father taught him modernism, by installing at their place electricity and telephone as early as 1890. One year only after high school, at eighteen years old, he was admitted at the Ecole Polytechnique ("year" 1899). Six years later, he graduated in the Corps des Ponts et Chaussées.
From 1905 to 1912, he was a project manager in Troyes (Aube), and was pointed out for major civil work improvements he undertook with the city sewer system. This protected the city from the centennial flood of the River Seine in 1910. In 1912, he joined a leading structural engineering firm where he applied his unique talent of structure designer.
Albert Caquot conducted outstanding research that was immediately applied in construction. His major contributions include:
In the course of his life, Albert Caquot taught mechanical science for a long time in three of the most prominent French engineering schools in Paris: Écoles nationales supérieures des Mines, des Ponts et de l'Aéronautique.
In the course of his career, as both a highly creative designer and a tireless calculator, he designed more than 300 bridges and facilities among which several were world records at the time:
Two prestigious achievements made him famous internationally: the internal structure of the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) at the peak of Corcovado Mountain (1931) and the George V Bridge on the Clyde River in Glasgow (Scotland) for which the Scottish engineers asked for his assistance.
In his late eighties, he developed a gigantic tidal power project to capture the tide energy in Mont St Michel bay, in Normandy.
During the course of his life, he committed himself alternatively to structural and aeronautical engineering following the rhythm imposed by the First and Second World Wars. Albert Caquot's contributions to aeronautics are included the design of the "Caquot dirigible" and technical innovations at the new French Aviation Ministry, where he created several Fluid Mechanics Institutes that still exist today. Marcel Dassault, who was charged by Albert Caquot to develop several major aeronautical projects at the beginning of his career, wrote about him: "He was one of the best engineers that aeronautics ever had. He was visionary and ahead of his time. He led aeronautical innovations for forty years".
As early as 1901, already visionary, he performed his military service in an airship unit of the French army. At the beginning of First World War, he was mobilised with the 40e Compagnie d'Aérostiers equipped with Drachen type airships as first lieutenant. He noticed the poor wind behavior of these sausage shaped captive balloons, which were ineffective except in calm conditions.
In 1914, he designed a new sausage-shaped dirigible equipped with three air-filled lobes spaced evenly around the tail as stabilizers, and moved the inner air balloonette from the rear to the underside of the nose, separate from the main gas envelope. The Caquot was able to hold in 90 km/h winds and remain horizontal. During three years, France manufactured "Caquot dirigibles" for all the allied forces, including English and United States armies. The United States also manufactured nearly a thousand "Caquot R balloons" in 1918-1919. This balloon gave to France and its allies an advantage in military observation which significantly contributed to the allies' supremacy in aviation and eventually to the final victory. In January 1918, Georges Clémenceau named him technical director of the entire military aviation. In 1919, Albert Caquot proposed the creation of the French aeronautical museum (today called Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace, in Le Bourget). This museum is the oldest aeronautical museum in the world.
In 1928, Albert Caquot became the first executive director of the new Aviation ministry. He implemented a policy of research, prototypes and mass production which contributed quickly to France leadership in the aeronautical industry. His main accomplishments are:
In 1933, after a budget cut which prevented him from carrying forward his projects, he resigned and went back to structural engineering for several years.
In 1938, under the threat of the war, Albert Caquot was brought back to manage all the national aeronautical businesses. He resigned in January 1940.
He always had a great independence of mind and an incredible selflessness. The numerous honors he received from multiple countries, for example the dignity of Grand-croix de la Légion d'Honneur in France (1951), pay tribute to his exceptional merits. He was a member of the French Academy of Sciences for 41 years and served as their president from 1952 to 1961. During more than twenty years, he chaired numerous French scientific organizations, like the National Council of the French Engineers (CNISF), and was on the board of EDF (Électricité de France), the main electricity generation and distribution company in France, during more than ten years. In 1961, at 80 years old, Albert Caquot resigned from all the presidencies which he had always assured voluntarily. Warm-hearted, attentive and available, he loved to withdraw within his family.
On 2 July 2001, a 4.5-FRF (0.69-EUR) stamp was issued in France to celebrate Albert Caquot's legacy on the 120th anniversary of his birth and the 25th anniversary of his death. A "Caquot dirigeable" and the bridge of La Caille, two of his creations, surround his picture on the stamp.
Since 1989, the Prix Albert Caquot is awarded annually by the French Association of Civil and Structural Engineering.