Russian jurist, professor of Roman law; born at Odessa Jan. 13, 1842; died at Berlin in 1894. He belongs, on the maternal side, to a Jewish family that has produced several noted scholars. He graduated from the Odessa Gymnasium in 1857, and after studying the ancient languages in Dresden, he attended successively the universities of Halle, Heidelberg, and Berlin, under Professors Vengerov and Gneist, who exercised great influence over him. In 1864 he obtained the degree of doctor of law from the University of Berlin, being the first Jew to receive it from that institution.

For two years Bernstein attended the sessions of the Halle circuit court, in order to familiarize himself with the practise of law. Toward the end of 1865 he returned to Russia with the intention of lecturing on Roman law, but found that he was debarred by his religion from holding a professorship in Russia. He thereupon applied himself to the study of Russian law, and subsequently practised it at Odessa and St. Petersburg successively. Bernstein continued his theoretical studies, and in 1871 presented at the University of St. Petersburg a thesis on Russian civil law, obtaining the degree of master of law.

In 1872 Bernstein married Felice Leonovna, a daughter of the Russian banker Leon Rosenthal, and after a prolonged tour through Europe permanently settled in Berlin. For eight years (1878-86) he lectured on Roman law at the University of Berlin as a privat-docent; in 1886 he was appointed associate professor; and in 1887 professor. In the latter year he renounced his allegiance to Russia and became a German subject. About this time there was established in connection with the university an institute for the instruction in Roman law of Russian students sent abroad by their government to prepare themselves for professorships, and Bernstein was appointed one of its directors.

Bernstein always took great interest in Jewish affairs. When the exodus of Russian Jews to the United States began, in 1881, he was an active member of the Berlin colonization committee, and for many years corresponded with Michael Heilprin on colonization matters.

Most of Bernstein's writings were published in various law periodicals; but some were issued in book form. His first published work was "De Delegationis Naturæ," Berlin, 1864. A Russian translation, under the title "O Sushchestvye Delegatzi po Rimskomu Pravu," was published in St. Petersburg in 1871. In this dissertation the author's views relating to delegation and novation anticipated those expressed in the famous treatise of Salpius. Bernstein's "Ucheniye o Razdyelitelnykh Obyazatelstvakh po Rimskomu Pravu i Noveishim Zakonam," St. Petersburg, 1871, was the first attempt ever made to apply the principles of Roman and common law to Russian legislation. Its leading idea was further developed in "Zur Lehre von dem Alternativen Willen und den Alternativen Rechtsgeschäften, Abtheilung I.: der Alternative Wille und die Alternative Obligation." Bernstein was also the author of the following works: "Zur Lehre vom. Legatum Optionis," in "Zeit. der Savigny-Stiftung," 1880, pp. 151 et seq.; "Ueber die Subjectiven Alternativen Rechtsgeschäfte von Todeswegen," ib. 1883, iv.; "Die Alternative Obligatio im Römischen und im Modernen Rechte," in "Zeit. für Vergleichende Rechtswissenschaft," ii.; an analysis of Pescatore's "Die Sogenannte Alternative Obligatio," in "Zeit. für Handelsrecht," xxix.; "Zur Lehre von den Datis Dictis," in "Festgabe für Beseler," Berlin, 1884.

  • Vengerov, Kritiko-Biograficheski Slovar, iii., St. Petersburg, 1892;
  • Entziklopedicheski Slovar, iii., St. Petersburg, 1892; and private sources.
H. R.
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