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Books

Book Review

‘The Explorer Gene’ by Tom Cheshire

A very tall man, with an interminable neck, who wore round spectacles and a Basque beret, Auguste Piccard became the model for Professor Cuthbert Calculus, the head-in-the-clouds scientist in the popular “The Adventures of Tintin’’ comic books, written by the Belgian cartoonist Hergé in the 1930s. Decades later, he inspired Gene Roddenberry, the creator of “Star Trek’’ the show and its other incarnations, to name the captain of the Starship Enterprise Jean-Luc Picard (played by Patrick Stewart).

Although it is little remembered now, in 1931, Piccard, a Swiss-born professor of physics, flew higher than anyone before him in a spherical, pressurized, aluminum balloon he had helped design. A year later, he broke his own record.

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