Paris has been through a lot in the past few days, months, years, and centuries — and out of that, it’s produced some of the finest inventions, social changes, innovations, and cheeses in the world. It wasn’t just the city that kept Hemingway fuelled with red wine while he penned his tomes, or the heart of the revolution that will forever be a historic moment in democratic history. Paris has lead the way on many fronts, from food to transportation. It’s time to pay our respects.
1. Street lights
It was all the way back in 1524 when residents in Paris who lived in a house facing a street were required by law to have a lamp in the window so that people could see in the dark streets. In 1878, the city was the first to install a type of arced electrical street lamp. So when you’re walking home on a dark night, thank Paris for being able to find your way.
2. Essentially, modern food
Yes, the modern idea of a restaurant was invented in Paris, as well as half of the things on their menus — from pastries to entrees to cocktails to the very words we use in the kitchen (even basic stuff like “plate” derives from the French).
3. Human rights
The 1948 United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights was in fact based off of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which was passed by the French National Constituent Assembly in August 1789.
4. Underwater exploration
Yep, the world owes Paris for SCUBA gear, and many more underwater breathing advances. It only opened up, oh, about two-thirds of the planet to us.
5. Going to the movies
Paris was the site of the world’s first-ever public commercial film screening. Two French brothers, Auguste and Louis Lumière, developed a camera projector and showed a series of short scenes from everyday French life, and charged admission for it. No word on whether or not popcorn was served.
6. A lot of modern healthcare
Been to the doctor lately? Did they tell you that your heart was doing just fine? Thank Paris, which is where René-Théophile-Hyacinthe Laënnec invented the stethoscope. It’s been in use with a virtually unchanged design for the last two centuries. Ever had a broken bone? Well, thank Paris for plaster of Paris, which forms the basis for modern casts.
7. Car racing
On July 22nd, 1894, almost two dozen drivers of truly old-school gas- & steam-powered cars set out in a race from Paris to Rouen. They drove at a riveting 12mph, and set the scene for automobile racing.
Jean-Paul Sartre, the Father of existentialism, was born in Paris, and it’s where he decided that hell was other French people.
9. The metric system
Yep, the system is so good that all but three countries on the planet have officially adopted it. Myanmar, Liberia, and um, one other..
10. The world’s understanding of American democracy
You would think that they could have figured this out on their own, but sometimes it takes an outsider to explain what they can’t see internally. That’s exactly what Paris-born Alexis de Tocqueville did in Democracy in America, a book that would be one of the most influential political works of the 19th century, and that you probably had to read excerpts of in college. A Harvard professor calls it “At once the best book ever written on democracy and the best book ever written on America.”
Parisian Antoine Lavoisier is widely credited with turning chemistry from an art into a science, and thus earned the title “the Father of modern chemistry.”
Yep — haute couture (“high fashion”) was invented in Paris, along with things like the bikini, the little black dress, and practically anything from pre-WW2.
Many people tried to invent photography, but their results were crude. It was a Parisian, Louis Daguerre, who succeeded, and whose name graces the daguerreotype — the first publicly announced photographic process. It was such an improvement that its invention in 1839 is considered “the birth of practical photography.”
This feature is adopted from Thrillist.