Jacques Cousteau, who brought the wonders of the ocean's depths to hundreds of millions of readers, filmgoers and television viewers, died at his home here today at 87. His family said his death was due to a heart attack following a respiratory infection.

Cousteau wrote or co-wrote more than 80 books, produced and starred in nearly 100 films and was the host of a documentary television series, "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau," that was shown in more than 100 countries.

Three of his films received Academy Awards for best documentary and one, "The Silent World," also won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. He was awarded the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society with President John F. Kennedy in attendance. President Ronald Reagan awarded him the Medal of Freedom.

For 40 years, Cousteau traveled the oceans of the world aboard his research vessel Calypso, and he was known in all parts of the globe for his talent and enthusiasm in bringing the silent depths of the sea to human eyes and for his zest for underwater exploration.

He was "a great Frenchman who was also a citizen of the world," French President Jacques Chirac said in a statement today.

Cousteau was a member of the French Academy, the highest honor in France. His funeral will be held here Monday at Notre Dame Cathedral.

At 13, Cousteau made his first home movie in the south of his native France.

He was 10 when he made his first underwater dive at a camp in Vermont.

He co-invented the undersea scuba apparatus known as the Aqua Lung, designed new equipment and techniques for underwater photography, directed a major museum in Monaco and founded environmental organizations in the United States, Canada and France.

But he is primarily known for stirring pictures and storytelling.

"He taught not one generation but three or four generations about the environment and the planet," said Bernard Violet, author of a new Cousteau biography that will appear in France next week.

Some said Cousteau was more a media star than a real oceanographer, more a publicity-seeker than a scientist. There were allegations that he staged underwater events for the cameras, and environmentalists said he could have done more for various causes.

He had family difficulties. His brother was sentenced to death as a enemy collaborator in World War II but later was pardoned. His younger son and designated heir to the oceanographic empire died young in a seaplane crash. He squabbled with his older son about use of the family name, and, it was learned in 1990, he maintained a second family in addition to his wife of 50 years.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau was born June 11, 1910, in St.-Andre-de-Cubzac, in southern France near Bordeaux. His father worked for several wealthy Americans as companion and legal adviser. One of those employers brought the Cousteau family to New York in 1920 for two years. The English language young Jacques learned there later would prove useful.

As a child, he was fascinated with the water, and he spent hours watching ships in the Mediterranean. In 1933, he graduated from the French national naval academy, second in his class. He trained as a combat pilot but a near fatal auto accident disqualified him from flying. He spent much of World War II stationed on the Mediterranean doing diving experiments.

His brother, Philippe, meanwhile, was an open supporter of the occupying Nazis, editing a pro-Nazi newspaper in Paris. Jacques, who spied for the Allied forces, testified in his brother's defense when he was tried after the war. Eventually, Philippe was pardoned, but he never forgave Jacques for not doing more to help him.

By 1950, he and his exploration team felt they needed their own ship for undersea expeditions. Financial assistance from a British donor allowed them to buy a 360-ton British minesweeper that they refitted and named the Calypso. Throughout his career, Cousteau was highly successful in finding funds for his projects.

Their most important early voyage was to the Red Sea and then the Indian Ocean, beginning in 1955. One of their most renowned exploits was unearthing the hull of an ancient Greek wine freighter, buried deep in fossil mud 130 feet below the surface off the French coast near Marseille.

During hundreds of dives, they filmed groupers, sharks, whales, dolphins and other sea life. Cousteau was assisted in cinematography by the later famed director Louis Malle, then 23 and just out of film school.

The resulting film, "The Silent World," won both an Oscar and the prize at Cannes. In announcing his death today, Cousteau's widow, second wife Francine, and the Cousteau Foundation said simply that "Captain Cousteau left us on June 25 to rejoin the silent world." His other two Academy Awards for best documentary were for "Le Poisson Rouge" (1959) and "World Without Sun" (1965).

Time magazine put him on its cover in 1960.

His oceangoing experiments included oil exploration and undersea living, but he became most known for his television series, which ran for nine years beginning in 1968 on ABC. He explored such subjects as whale migration and sunken ships.

After he led a 1972 voyage to Antarctica, a worldwide television audience saw for the first time the extraordinary beauty of sculptured ice formations under the sea.

His younger son, Philippe, was increasingly involved in all aspects of the Cousteau enterprises and had emerged as his father's heir apparent. An older son, Jean-Michel, had chosen to study architecture. But in 1979, Philippe died while piloting a seaplane to a landing near Lisbon. The plane flipped over, and Philippe was killed.

Jean-Michel, the older son, eventually rose to prominence within the Cousteau organization, but he and his father had a falling out in 1995. Jean-Michel named a Pacific resort the Cousteau Fiji Island Resort. He eventually was persuaded to add his first name to the title, and father and son reconciled.

In 1974, Jacques Cousteau founded the Cousteau Society in New York. Its French equivalent followed in 1981. Both promote his exploration missions and pursue environmental goals. Cousteau was among the early leaders in the movement to recognize the importance of energy conservation and clean water. In 1995, he resigned from his post as president of a French national council on future generations to protest President Chirac's decision to resume nuclear testing in the South Pacific.

In 1990, his wife, the former Simone Melchior, died. In 1991, Cousteau married Francine Triplet, a flight attendant. They already had two children, Diane and Pierre-Yves, who are now in their late teens.

Today, Francine Cousteau said in a news conference that she hopes to finish her late husband's dream of building the Calypso II. The original Calypso is now docked in Marseille in poor condition after having been struck by a barge in Singapore in 1996. CAPTION: Jacques Cousteau traveled the oceans for 40 years on his ship Calypso. CAPTION: Jacques Cousteau, who died in Paris yesterday at 87, won three Academy Awards with his underwater documentaries, and his television series, "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau," was shown in more than 100 countries.