« I wanted to go looking for new ideas blowing in the wind, to try and function better on earth as a doctor and a human being »
Bertrand Piccard, born in Lausanne (Switzerland) on 1 March 1958, is pursuing three parallel careers, as doctor and psychiatrist; explorer with a passion for aviation; and public speaker. To deepen his understanding of the “ inner world ”, Bertrand Piccard studied medicine, completing a double specialization in psychiatry and psychotherapy, for both adults and children. His doctoral thesis entitled “La Pédagogie de l’Epreuve ” (“ Ordeal, a Learning Experience ”), was awarded a prize by the Lausanne Faculty of Medicine. Attracted by the opportunity of administering therapy under hypnosis, he underwent training in Europe and the United States, and became a teacher and supervisor at the Swiss Medical Hypnosis Society.
Doctor, psychiatrist, aviator, public speaker, president of the humanitarian foundation «Winds of Hope», and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador - Bertrand Piccard seeks to combine his family’s scientific heritage with his own ambition to tackle great challenges of our time. By initiating the Solar Impulse project and flying around the world in a solar airplane, he was seeking to promote technologies that help conserve our planet’s natural resources.
Since childhood, he has been fascinated by how humans behave in extreme situations, and passionate about exploration. In the 1970s, he was one of the pioneers of hang gliding and ultralight flying, becoming European hang-glider aerobatics champion in 1985. An enthusiastic aviator, he then went on to obtain his licenses to fly balloons, airplanes, gliders and motor-gliders. As a balloon pilot, he used his hypnosis skills during the first transatlantic balloon race, which he won in 1982 with Wim Verstraeten of Belgium. He then initiated the “Breitling Orbiter ” project. In March 1999 he made the first non-stop round-the-world balloon flight, thus achieving, together with Englishman Brian Jones, the longest flight ever in the history of aviation, both for duration and distance.
The greatest danger is not taking risks, but dozing through life free of doubt.
But his concerns also extend to the fight against poverty, which is why - with Brian Jones and Breitling - he launched Winds of Hope, the humanitarian foundation he now chairs. Teaming up with the World Health Organization (WHO), he committed Winds of Hope to fighting Noma through direct action in the field, by raising public awareness, and by bringing under one roof the organizations that fight this terrible disease. The United Nations appointed him a goodwill ambassador for its Population Fund (UNFPA). By taking an approach to adventure centered on human values, Bertrand Piccard has become a speaker who is highly appreciated by the general public and big companies. Since 1992 he has been the main attraction at several hundred private and public events on all the continents. Taking his balloon flights as a metaphor for life, he examines motivation, the spirit of adventure, the psychology of communication and team-working, and how to deal with stress and the unpredictable.
Following the family tradition that combines scientific exploration with protection of the environment, Bertrand Piccard came up with the idea of flying round the world in a solar aircraft with no fuel or polluting emissions, so as to promote a spirit of pioneering in the field of renewable energies. He teamed up with André Borschberg to officially launch the Solar Impulse project in 2003 and started building a revolutionary aircraft. A pioneer, an explorer and an innovator free from hidebound certitude and stereotypes, Bertrand Piccard is above all a visionary and communicator. As chairman of Solar Impulse, he developed the project’s avant-garde philosophy and outlined its symbolic and political power, convincing financial partners to support the challenge. He shares control of the enterprise with André Borschberg, just as he took turns with him at the controls of the solar aircraft. Bertrand Piccard is married to Michèle and they have three children. He lives near Lausanne, where he still finds time to write descriptions for us of his impressions, his philosophy about adventure, and his ideas for the future.
«Adventure is a state of mind in the face of the unknown. It’s a way of conceiving our life as an experimental field, in which we have to develop our inner resources, advance along the road of personal development, and assimilate the ethical and spiritual values we need as travelling companions.»
Adventure in the 21st Century consists of using human ingenuity and the pioneering spirit to develop the quality of life that present and future generations deserve to have.
Following his success, Bertrand Piccard was decorated with the Légion d’Honneur, the Olympic Order, the Wissam Al Alaoui, the Order of Saint-Charles and the highest distinctions of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the National Geographic Society and the Explorers Club. An honorary professor and an honorary doctor in science, letters and technology, he also received the Grand Prix of the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques.
Up there between Heaven and Earth, doubts and the unknown are our allies in the search for the Essential
«At the most intense moments of my adventures, one corner of my mind is often thinking about what I will say about them later. That’s why the need arose for me to write down all these fleeting impressions. My books have only one purpose: to instill in readers the urge to surpass their own limits - not on the ground, in the air or in the water, but in their own minds.»
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