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Gustave Trouvé

Engineer, physicist and chemist, Gustave Trouvé was born in La Haye Descartes on January 2nd 1839. His father Jacques Trouvé was a wealthy cattle merchant.

In 1850 his parents sent him to nearby Chinon College. He continued his studies, including lock making, at the Arts et Metiers School in Angers, then moved to Paris to work at a watchmaker's shop.
From 1878, at his rented workshop at 14, rue Vivienne, Paris 2nd, G. Trouvé invented the following:

  • several types of battery
  • the battery winch
  • the electric polyscope (today's endoscope) for the examination of human orifices
  • an improved, more efficient electric motor which the inventor electrician installed in the world's 1st electric car, then the 1st electric boat propelled by the world's 1st outboard engine, then the 1st electric model airship and not forgetting other instruments such as the electric headlamp and electric horn, the electric sewing machine and the electric dental drill. Trouvé also created luminous electric jewels and fountains
  • the frontal headlamp
  • the universal electric safety lamp
  • domestic acetylene lamps, as well as a range of electric medical instruments, in particular uv-therapy spot lamps.

The winch battery

For industrial and scientific requirements, it was necessary to construct powerful dichromate batteries. Given the number and weight of the zinc electrode, lifting manually was not very practical, even impossible for large-sized batteries. Trouvé proposed a winch battery design where the different zinc electrodes were fixed to a hand-cranked lifting system.

Electric transport

In 1880, Trouvé made improvements to an electric motor to make it more efficient. He then installed two of his motors on a tricycle, powering them with six lead-acid batteries. With successful trials along the rue de Valois (Paris) Trouvé invented the world?s first electric vehicle. The following month, by fitting a boat with the same motor, this time removable, he simultaneously invented the world's first electric boat and the outboard engine. He would again innovate by fitting his boats with electric headlamps and horns.

Mechanical Bird

In 1890, Trouvé built a mechanical bird, or model "ornithopter" which he managed to fly to a distance of 90 metres, unheard of for a heavier-than-air machine. He also built and flew a tethered electric helicopter model.

After the above and several other inventions, many of which are still in daily use, Trouvé, a confirmed bachelor, died in Paris in July 1902, at the age of 63.

After 25 years of research, in 2012, Kevin Desmond, an English historian, has just published a biography "A la Recherche de Trouvé. Le quête d'un génie oublié" (= "Looking for Trouvé. The search for a forgotten French genius"). It is 200 pages long with over 80 illustrations. (To order it, please visit:

Following its publication, on October 13th 2012, Monsieur Jacques Barbier, Mayor of Descartes, unveiled a commemorative plaque at the Saint Lazare Square, location of the inventor's birthplace. In the nearby Maison d'artistes, there is a wall display of documents concerning Gustave Trouvé.

En 2015, grâce à Kevin Desmond, une deuxième biographie, plus détaillée et en anglais, a vu le jour: "Gustave Trouvé, French Electrical Genius" de la maison d'édition McFarland & Co Inc. de Caroline du Nord, aux USA

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