The influence of Jules Verne inspired Jacques Cousteau's lasting technological vision of exploring the depths of the ocean through his inventions.
In the beginning, he was not much interested in the future. Rather, he was concerned with the present, enjoying himself to the fullest and experiencing the riches and wonders of the deep in the most consuming, most immediate ways he could imagine--and, if such a thing wasn't possible, he would find a way to make it so.
Jacques Cousteau was born in 1910 in France. As a child he was fascinated by technology and had an insatiable curiosity about how machines worked.
My father was a skinny child and not particularly healthy. He suffered from a variety of ailments, including a chronic case of enteritis, which left him feeling weak and out of sorts. He never thought of himself as a natural or gifted athlete. As a result, perhaps, he developed a fierce determination.
Cousteau's wish to explore the ocean was influenced by science fiction of the time, particularly that of Jules Verne.
As a teenager in Paris, he had seen the American remake of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, produced in 1916 by Carl Laemmle from film shot by two brothers from Norfolk, VA. Now that he was trying everything he could think of to keep his camera dry and shoot movie film underwater, he read everything he could about the American brothers.
-Brad Matsen, Jacques Cousteau: The Sea King, 2009
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, 1916
By the 1930s Cousteau was inspired by a new type of underwater breathing apparatus, invented by Yves Le Prieur, where a diver wore a tank of compressed air attached to a full-face mask.
With the improved Le Prieur apparatus, an untethered diver could swim free for twenty minutes at 20 feet or fifteen minutes at 40 feet, manually releasing air from the tank on his chest whenever he needed a breath.
However, this system had its limitations. Manual regulation meant that much of the air tank was wasted. To truly swim freely under the water, a better method of supplying air to a diver would need to be found.