Picture of Andre Citroen
André-Gustave Citroën 5 February 1878 Paris, France
3 July 1935 (aged 57) Paris, France
Founder of Citroen
Born in Paris in 1878, André-Gustave was the fifth and last child of Jewish parents, diamond merchant Levie Citroen from the Netherlands and Masza Amelia Kleinman from Warsaw, Poland. He was a cousin of the British philosopher Sir A. J. Ayer (the only son of his aunt Reine). The Citroen family moved to Paris from Warsaw in 1873. Upon arrival, the French diaeresis was added to the Dutch surname (reputedly by one of André's teachers), changing Citroen to Citroën. Citroen comes from a grandfather in the Netherlands who had been a greengrocer and seller of tropical fruit, and had taken the surname of Limoenman, Dutch for "lime man," his son however changed it to Citroen, which in Dutch means "lemon". His father committed suicide when André was six years old (presumably after failure in a business adventure in a diamond mine in South Africa). It is reputed that the young André was inspired by the works of Jules Verne and had seen the construction of the Eiffel Tower for the World Exhibition, making him want to become an engineer. André was a graduate of the École Polytechnique in 1900. In that year he visited Poland, the birthland of his mother, who had recently died. During that holiday he saw a carpenter working on a set of gears with a fish-bone structure. These gears were less noisy and more efficient. Citroën bought the patent for very little money, leading to the invention that is credited to Citroën: double helical gears. Also reputed to be the inspiration of the double chevron logo of the Citroën brand. In 1906 he was installed as a director for the automotive Mors (automobile) company where he was very successful. During World War I, he was responsible for mass production of armaments. Citroën gained an international reputation during the war, and more as the leading production expert in France. His activities were extensive in connection with the Renault plant, which employed 35,000 men in the manufacture of munitions during the war. In mid-1919, Citroën was one of the directors of the Société Française Doble, Paris, to build steam cars in France. Some other directors of the company were Paul Sicault, of the Renault Co.; M. Mery, of the Turcat-Mery Co.; M. Delage, the automobile designer. The design was not feasible and Citroën turned to other projects. Citroën founded the Citroën automobile company in 1919, leading it to become the fourth-largest automobile manufacturer in the world by the early 1930s (specifically 1932). Costs for developing the model Traction Avant, which would ironically go on to improve the sales for the company, led to bankruptcy in 1934. It was taken over by the main creditor Michelin, who had provided tires for the cars. He died in Paris, France, of stomach cancer in 1935 and was interred in the Cimetière du Montparnasse, the funeral being led by the Chief Rabbi of Paris.
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