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HERZ, CORNELIUS:

French electrician; born in Besançon 1848; died in Bournemouth, England, July 6, 1898. Herz's parents were Germans who had emigrated to France. He went through the Besançon schools, studied medicine in Germany, and settled in Paris, where he had a severe struggle with poverty. He served through the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71 in the army of the Loire, becoming adjutant, and at the close of the war was made foreign member of the Legion of Honor. He then went to the United States, where he became a naturalized citizen, obtained a medical diploma, married Miss Sarony of Boston, and established an electrical business in San Francisco. In 1877 he returnedto Paris, and started an electric-light business, founded the Electric-Force Transmission Company under the Marcel Despretz patents, endeavored to secure control of the telephone company, and formed (in 1879) the Paris Electric-Light Company. He now rose rapidly, and in 1880 was made a grand officer of the Legion of Honor. He was implicated in the Panama Canal scandal as the chief intermediary between the Panama Canal Company and the bribed deputies, and claimed to have in his possession all the documents and correspondence relating to that imbroglio. Tracked by detectives, he fled to Italy, thence to Germany, and finally found refuge in England. The French courts condemned him to five years' imprisonment, and his name was expunged from the roll of the Legion of Honor. The French government applied persistently but unsuccessfully for his extradition. In 1897 he offered to make a full disclosure to the Panama Inquiry Committee, but when the committee was about to start for Bournemouth he withdrew his promise.

Bibliography:
  • Appleton's Annual Cyclopedia, 1898, p. 595;
  • Le Figaro (Paris), Dec. 12, 1892;
  • G. Bennett Smith, Life and Enterprises of Ferdinand de Lesseps, p. 331, passim, London, 1893.
S. N. D.
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