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Massy (Municipality, Essonne, France)

Last modified: 2020-07-13 by ivan sache
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Flag of Massy, three versions - Images by Olivier Touzeau, 8 April 2020

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Presentation of Massy

The municipality of Massy (43,524 inhabitants in 2012; 943 ha; tourist's information website) is located 15 km south-west of Paris and 15 km south-east of Versailles.

Massy was originally a Gallo-Roman villa, maybe owned by a Macius / Matheus, located on the road connecting Paris to Chartres. In the Middle Ages, Massy, known as Maci or Macy, was ruled by a lineage of local lords that emerged in the 10th century. In the 12th century, Jean de Macy shared the domain among his three sons; the junior son, Aymon, founded Villa Haymonis, subsequently the hamlet of Villaine, of which nearly has remained in the modern town. Louise d'Aumont (1759-1826), Baroness of Massy, married in 1777 Honoré IV, Prince of Monaco; accordingly, the Grimaldi still bear the nominal title of lords of Massy.
In 1852, Jérôme Bonaparte (1784-1860), the youngest brother of Napoléon Bonaparte and King of Württemberg (1807-1813), purchased the castle of Vilgénis, erected in Massy on the site of the Gallo-Roman villa Johannis, where he would die; the park of the castle has two lakes, one of them shaped like Napoléon's cocked out hat.

Once a rural village, Massy became an industrial town at the end of the 19th century, favoured by the railway. In 1885, the plant breeder Vilmorin-Andrieux moved its production farm from the neighbouring town of Verrières-le-Buisson, deemed too far form the railway, to Massy; in 1945, the company was the main employer of the town, which it left in 1972, abandoning an area of 13 ha.
During the Second World War, the town was severely damaged by air raids that targeted the Massy-Palaiseau marshalling yard, claiming 88 lives. In the 1960-1970s, the town was rebuilt according to the urbanization scheme of the time, that is, with rows of big buildings (grands ensembles).

Marcel Ramolfo-Garnier and François Hussenot established in 1947 in Massy the SFIM (Société de Fabrication des Instruments de Mesure), originally specialized in the production of black boxes for the aeronautic industry. Then a world leader in optic and optronic measurement devices, the SFIM was merged with several other companies to form the SAGEM, eventually merged in 2005 with the SNECMA to form the SAFRAN holding.
The eye-surgeon Paul Bailliart (1877-1969) increased the fame of the Quinze-Vingts hospital in Paris, originally established by King Louis IX (St. Louis) to house 300 (15 [quinze] x 20 [vingts] blind people and today among the world's top ophtalmological hospitals; Mayor of Massy from 1926 to 1935, Bailliart lived in the house who had belonged to the historian Fustel de Coulanges (1830-1889). Professor at the Sorbonne University in Paris and considered as one of the founders of French modern history, Fustel de Coulanges published in 1864 "La Cité antique", a pioneering analysis of the ancient Greek and Roman institutions.

Nicolas Appert (1749-1841; biography), a self-taught cook and confectioner, established in 1804 in Massy the first food bottling factory in the world, using the conservation process he had invented in 1795. Appert placed pieces of meat and vegetables in Champagne bottles, filled them with water to expel oxygen and sealed them with cork; the bottles were then immersed in boiling water for a few hours. The heat killed all micro-organisms able to spoil the food. Wax and iron wires were added to the seal to improve airtightness and increase conservation duration. It took another 60 years until Pasteur could experimentally explain Appert's process.
Appert got a contract with the French Navy, cancelled after the Battle of Trafalgar, and then with the Army. In 1810, he published the booklet Le Livre de tous les ménages ou L’art de conserver pendant plusieurs années toutes les substances animales ou végétales, describing the process he had, unfortunately, not cared to patent. Copied by French and British industrials, Appert died in extreme destitution and was buried in the common grave of the cemetery of Massy.

The ENSIA (École Nationale Supérieure des Industries Agricoles et Alimentaires - National School of Agricultural and Food Industry) was established in Massy in 1961; the school was indeed transferred from Douai, in the north of France, where it had originally been founded in 1893 as the École Nationale des Industries Agricoles (National School of Agricultural Industry). On 1 January 2007, the ENSIA was merged with the INA-PG and the ENGREF to form AgroParisTech. The Massy campus is still housing the AgroParisTech students in food studies. The experimental hall of the school, inaugurated in 1983, was named for Nicolas Appert.

Ivan Sache, 21 May 2015

Flag of Massy

The flag of Massy, hoisted in front of the Town Hall (photo, 2015), is white with the municipal logo. The motto of the town reads "My town moves forwards".
In 2017 or 2018, the municiplaity decided to "enrich" its logo and added below it three blue squares with the logotypes of three social networks: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (photo, May 2018; photo, April 2019; photo, 2019). Yet another version exists, with the URL of the municipal website instead of the social networks (photo, June 2018).

Ivan Sache & Olivier Touzeau, 8 april 2020