The Rolex Awards for Enterprise
French physician, underwater explorer and sportsman, Xavier Fructus has been a prime mover in raising standards of medical safety in undersea diving, in developing revolutionary techniques for very deep diving experiments, and in expanding interest and activities in underwater research and sport in France.
ln 1936, Fructus obtained a medical degree from the University of Marseilles, and three years later he was mobilized and fought in France during the Second World War. At the end of the hostilities, he recommenced his medical studies and studied endocrinology and sports medicine in Paris, after which he practiced medicine in Marseilles. Since 1964, he has been the scientific director of COMEX, Marseilles.
Fructus’ medical studies, his origins in a coastal town, and his love of the sea all found their outlet in his research in subaquatic and hyperbaric medicine and in the field of underwater exploration.
ln 1951, he helped in the unification of the French Federation of Underwater Research and Sport. This was followed by his work with Commandant Jacques Cousteau in setting up the French Underwater Research Centre of which he was appointed vice president in 1965.
His appointment as scientific director of COMEX offered him wide scientific scope and allowed him to draw up the first French safety tables for industrial helium/oxygen diving and direct the first human very deep diving experiments in hydrogen mixtures (HYDRA III, IV and V); and describe, with Drs Gardette and Carlioz, the syndrome of “hydrogen narcosis”.
ln addition to his scientific and research work, Dr Fructus has organized some dozen congresses and symposia on underwater medicine in France and other countries and founded the French Society of Underwater Medicine.
The honours he has received include various medals for his service during the Second World War, the Golden Trident of Ustica in 1972, the Oceaneering Award (U.S.) in 1976 and the Albert R. Behnke Award (U.S.) in 1981.
Published in 1987