Banker, politician, patron, founder of
family was native of Mainz, in Germany, and had spread out in Europe,
from 1820s, contracting unions with Goldschmidt's and Bamberger's.
His mother was Amelie Goldschmidt.
His father, Louis Raphaël created the Bischoffsheim Bank in the
Netherlands, which became afterward the Banque de Credit et de Dépot
He was born in
Amsterdam, but he studied in Paris where he prepared the competitive entry
examination to the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures
(Central School of Arts and Manufacture), that he passed sucessfully
in 1839. As his family was involved in the investment of European
railroads, when he finished his studies at the School in 1846, he obtained
a post of responsability in the Dutch railroads.
Four years later, he
was by his father's side, and became an administrator of the Compagnie
des Chemins de Fer du Midi (Company of the Southern Railroads).
The Bischoffsheims, associated to their cousins Goldschmidt and Bamberger,
created the Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas (Paribas), merger of
the Banque de Paris and the Banque de Credit et de Depot des Pays-Bas,
in 1872. The year after, Bischoffsheim senior died.
a bachelor and his unique heir. He decided to continue the philanthropic
actions. He was particularly helpful to astronomy, because he liked this
science, and he knew how important an aid was needed. in France.
He provided Paris
Observatory with a large meridian circle and the equatorial coudé,
built on his friend's idea, Maurice Loewy,
astronomer in Paris Observatory. Then, Bischoffsheim cooperated
in the foundation of the Observatory of Puy de Dôme; he obtained funds
for an Observatory to build at the top of the Mount Ventoux; he was one
of the first and main subscribers for the foundation of
the Observatory of Pic du Midi (west French Pyrenees), as well as for
the foundation of the Observatory of Mont Blanc( French Alps).
But above all, he created the Nice Observatory,
providing it with an excellent astronomical equipment, likely to compete
with the best foreign establishments. Such a realization made his name famous
to the French and foreign astronomers. Not only he met all the expenses
there but also he financed astronomical and geodesic expeditions.
He plaid a part of patron in other fields. He
contributed to the birth of the Society of archaeological reserches
and to the foundation of a great Encyclopedia.
Raphael Bischoffsheim had a
house in Bordighera (Italian Riviera) where he left a good memory.
While he was an inspector of the railroads of Northern Italy,
he obtained that the express stop in Bordighera, and later he offered
to the city an important bank loan for the creation of new streets.
He was naturalized on
April 24th, 1880, and then he could embark on french politics.
The next year, he was elected deputee, as a republican candidate
in a district of Nice, with a huge majority, but this election was
disputed: he was accused to pressurized certain groups of voters,
and his election was invalidated in 1890.
He took his revenge
three years later. He was elected in the first ballot in the district
of Puget-Théniers( Nice hinterland), and reelected with the same
success to the Chamber until 1906, when he was beaten.
He got tired of the election
campaign, the principal part of which was made on mules, by very steep
mountainous roads and the defeat, which affected him, weakened his
He fell ill in
Nice, then he got back to his Parisian residence and died
a bit further.
had a rare intelligent mind, an unusual ambition, and dissolute morals.
The writer Emile Zola would have been inspired by him for the
character of the banker Steiner in his book "Nana".
Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society ( 1881 )
Member associate to the Academie des Sciences ( 1890 )
FLAMMARION, Bulletin de la Societé Astronomique de France, 20 (
Revue générale des Sciences pures et appliquées, 13
( 1906 ).
des parlementaires français, t. 1, p.329 et t.2, p.611, Presses
Universitaires de France, Paris, 1962.
M. FULCONIS, Raphael
Bischoffsheim, l'homme qui a offert à la France le plus grand observatoire
édition Regards du Monde, 2003