Deutsch de la Meurthe, Henri

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DEUTSCH DE LA MEURTHE, HENRI (1846–1919), French industrialist and philanthropist. Henri was born in Paris, and began his career as an industrialist with the Société des Pétroles, which his father, Alexander Deutsch (d. 1889), had founded. In 1866 Henri and his brother, Émile, took over joint management of the firm, and under their direction it became one of the leading French companies in the petroleum industry. Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe pioneered in advancing the commercial uses of petroleum. His work, Le Pétrole et ses Applications (1891), and the exhibit on the petroleum industry which he arranged at the 1889 World Fair in Paris, contributed greatly to a fuller understanding of the importance of petroleum in industry and commerce. In 1901 he encouraged the use of petroleum for aviation with an offer of a prize for a successful flight over Paris, which was won by Alberto Santos-Dumont. In 1906 he made a gift to the French government of the dirigible Ville-de-Paris, which Santos-Dumont had flown. He was the founder of the Aerotechnic Institute at St. Cyr for the University of Paris, and the donor of a chair in aeronautics at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers. He wrote alyric opera, Icarus, which was performed at the Paris Opera in 1911. He was an active member of the French Consistoire Central. A monument in his honor was erected at Ecquevilly, Seine-et-Oise, in 1923.

His brother Émile (1847–1924), who also pioneered in the French petroleum industry, was born in Paris. He was the founder and first president of the Franco-American Brotherhood during World War i, and as its continuing head played an important role in giving assistance to nearly 300,000 French war orphans. In 1920 he set up the Émile and Louise de la Meurthe Foundation with an endowment of 10,000,000 francs, to build seven dormitories for impoverished students in Paris. Émile was also active in the Consistoire Central and was elected vice president of the Paris Consistory. He was a member of the central committee of the Alliance Israélite Universelle and founder of the Union Libérale Juive.


Dictionnaire de biographie française, 11 (1967), 164.