Cros was born in Fabrezan, Aude, the son of a primary school teacher. He passed his
Baccalauréat at the age of 14 years and studied both Sanskrit and Hebrew.
From 1860 to 1863, he taught chemistry at the Deaf and Dumb Institute of Paris before
devoting himself to scientific research. He presented an automatic telegraph at the
Exhibition of 1867; and, in 1869, presented a paper on colour photography to the Société
Française de Photographie. In 1877 he presented a paper on the paléophone, a precursor
of the phonograph, whereby sounds could be recorded on a metal surface for later
reproduction but he was forestalled by Edison's independent invention patented in 1878.
Cros was an advocate of prose poetry, first published in Le Parnasse Contemporain. He
created the literary club, Le Cercle des Poètes Zutistes, where he formed friendships
with Mallarmé, Verlaine and others. He also wrote and recited humorous poetry later
publishing in the magazine, La Renaissance Littéraire et Artistique.
He is regarded as one of the founders of surrealism but he was little known to the general
public during his lifetime. Some of his works were set to music by Chausson, Debussy
and others, however, to lasting appeal.
He died aged 45 years in Paris.