At the end of World War II, Dr. Jacques Piccard was a professor of international economics and his father, Professor Auguste Piccard, was a distinguished physicist. In the late 1940s they began to work together to develop a manned submersible that could take scientists into the sea. Their improbable “Swiss submarine” would open the depths for thousands of explorers.
Jacques, who had been an assistant professor at the University of Geneva, joined the project in 1948 to assist his father. It was the beginning of a very different career for this non-engineer. He never went back to academia, and by the time of his death in 2008 he was recognized as one of the leading submersible engineers in the world.
The Piccards’ first bathyscaph (literally, “deep boat” in Greek) was tested in 1948. The third and final bathyscaph was the Trieste. Launched in 1953 and based near Naples, for four years she made dives along the southwest coast of Italy. In September 1953, the Piccards dove together to 10,300 feet. It was the last dive for the 70-year-old elder Piccard, although he remained active in the ongoing work as a consultant.