Aristide Bergès (1833-1904)

Published on 4 February 2008
The Conqueror of High Falls

Aristide Bergès was born at Lorp, in the Ariège, on 4th September 1833, and died at Lancey, in Isère, on 28th February 1904.

The son of a paper manufacturer, he left the École centrale des Arts et Manufactures in 1853 with the title of chemical engineer.
He started his career in his father’s factory where he perfected manufacturing procedures for wood pulp slurry.
In 1864, he registered a series of patents on defibration, refining and screening the pulp.

Living in Dauphiné from 1867 onwards, he then became the promoter of equipment for high falls as an energy source for the manufacture of paper pulp.
It was thus that in perilous conditions he undertook the development of a fall of 200 metres in height in 1869, and then of 500 metres in 1882, on the Lancey stream.
These were at the time the highest head falls in France.

A true apostle of the utilisation of hydraulic energy accumulated in snow and glaciers, he was able to find the right word to designate it and touch people’s imaginations - “white coal” ,a term that was to later enjoy a great future.