Gustave Pierre Trouvé

Kevin Desmond looks for records of a little-known French inventor who rivalled Thomas Edison.

Gustave Pierre Trouvé

He single-handedly invented the electric vehicle, electric boat with portable engine, electric airship, portable electric safety lamp, endoscope, electric rifle, electric ‘light sabres’, electric jewellery, luminous fountains – among 40 patents. Only a few of his precision instruments, hand-built at his workshop in central Paris, have survived. Each one is marked: ‘Trouvé, 14 rue Vivienne, Paris  – Eurêka’.

And you would be forgiven for thinking that Trouvé is merely the past participle of the verb trouver, meaning ‘found’ (eurêka in Greek). But Gustave Pierre Trouvé, albeit an extremely modest, confirmed bachelor, was a real person. 

Born in La Haye-Descartes (Indre et Loire) in 1839, Gustave, his brothers and his sister were dominated by their father Jacques, a wealthy cattle merchant. Encouraged by his mother Clarisse, aged only seven the boy built a working miniature steam engine out of a sardine tin and umbrella spokes.

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