Entrepreneur, industrialist, politician, banker and writer, François Albert-Buisson mastered an impressive range of activities.
An entrepreneurial pharmacist…
The son of a craftsman clog-maker from Issoire, Puy-de-Dôme, in the Auvergne region of Central France, François-Albert Buisson, who came to be known as François Albert-Buisson, began his working life by running a pharmacy in Le Mans. He then set up his own pharmaceutical laboratory – a particularly innovative sector at that time – in Paris, and embarked on studies in Law. During the First World War, he carried out pharmaceutical work for the Department of Health, setting up a factory to recover fats and experimenting on asphyxiating gases. In the interwar period, he continued to build up his company, whose subsidiary Théraplix became a laboratory of national importance.
…who succeeded in the financial world…
A period spent working in the political office of Etienne Clémentel, a fellow-Auvergne native who was then France’s Finance Minister, brought him contacts and opened doors to the financial world. First of all he served as President of the Banque Nationale Française pour le Commerce Extérieur (BNFCE) from 1925 to 1931, where he had the task of restoring the bank to financial health. In 1932, when the Banque Nationale de Crédit (BNC) went bankrupt, the Banque Nationale pour le Commerce et l’Industrie (BNCI) took over its sound assets. Albert-Buisson, who was then President of the Commercial Court in Paris, became Chairman of the BNCI Board of Directors. Together with Alfred Pose, his General Manager, he gave fresh impetus to BNCI, transforming the bank into one of the most dynamic and innovative during the period.
Upon leaving BNCI in 1935, Albert-Buisson was appointed Chairman of leading chemicals and pharmaceuticals corporation Rhône-Poulenc. He was also invited on to the boards of several other companies including Chemins de Fer du Nord, Paribas, Gaz de Paris, Crédit National, Citroën, Norvégienne de l’Azote and the Banque d’Etat du Maroc.
…and in his political and literary careers.
Meanwhile he was pursuing a parallel political career at the town hall in Issoire, at the regional council in Puy-de-Dôme, and in the Senate. He was elected to the Academy of Political and Moral Sciences in 1936, appointed Chancellor of the (learned society and Academies umbrella organisation) Institut de France in 1953, and elected to the prestigious ‘Académie française’ in 1955, despite a shrill campaign in the press in which the esteemed French writer François Mauriac argued that Albert-Buisson was a ‘moneyed’ candidate who lacked the necessary qualities as a writer.