Henri Fabre was born into a prominent family of shipowners in the city of Marseilles. He was educated in the Jesuit College of Marseilles where he undertook advanced studies in sciences. He then intensively studied aeroplane and propeller designs. He patented a system of flotation devices which he used when he succeeded in taking off from the surface of the Etang de Berre on March 28, 1910. On that day, he completed four consecutive flights, the longest about 600 meters. the Hydravion has survived and is displayed in the Musée de l'Air in Paris. Henri Fabre was soon contacted by Glenn Curtiss and Gabriel Voisin who used his invention to develop their own seaplanes.
As late as 1971, the aged Fabre could still be seen sailing his own boat single handedly in Marseille harbor. He died at the age of 101 as one of the last living pioneers of human flight.