Robert de Joly

*05-JUL-1887 - ✝1968

bust of Robert de Joly at the entrance of ShowcaveAven d'Orgnac.
Robert de Joly with Pierre Ageron during the exploration of ShowcaveAven de Marzal.

Robert-Jacques de Joly was a famous French caver and speleologist. He started caving at the age of 14 and and was active for more than 60 years. He was known for his physical strength.

Robert de Joly was one of the successors to Édouard-Alfred Martel, who undoubtedly was the father of modern speleology. He was part of a generation of many great cavers, like Norbert Casteret, and he inspired and trained many successful and influential French cavers. He worked at the exploration of the Pierre St. Martin, the deepest cave at that time. Working in the improvement of the caving equipment he invented the lightweight, portable steel-cable ladder called electron ladder.

Probably his most important discovery was the ShowcaveAven d'Orgnac in the Ardeche region. On the first exploration trip he discovered most of what is today the show cave, to a depth of more than 100 m. He was so impressed by the cave that he convinced the village to finance the development. He managed the development personally and created the most impressive show cave of the Ardeche and one of the most beautiful show caves of Europe. In the mid 1960s impressive new chambers were discovered by the young generation of cavers, which he visited a few years before his death. This parts are guided today in eight hour cave trekking tours.

He died in 1968 in Montpellier and was cremated and buried in an urn in the Entrance Hall of the Orgnac cave. It is shown on the tour, located prominently in a window of a huge stalagmite formation.


05-JUL-1887 born in Paris.
1901 starts caving.
1928 Grand Bronze Medal of the Touring Club de France.
1929 Red Medal of the Société de statistique de Marseille.
1930 founded the Spéléo-club de France.
1930 revived the publication Spelunca.
1931 Hydrogeology Prize of the Société de Géographie de Paris.
19-AUG-1935 discovered the ShowcaveAven d'Orgnac.
1935-1939 planned and oversaw the development of the cave.
1936 co-founded the Société Spéléologique de France.
1939 Member of the Académie des Sciences de Montpelier.
1940 Member of the Académie des Sciences de Nîmes.
1967 Officer of the Légion d'honneur, for service to speleology.
1968 died in Montpellier.