Families Related to Paul Riboud

Paul (Bon Papa) Riboud

Paul Riboud (1872-1972)

Chindrieux, France in 1949

Graphique Genealogique

The Family Genealogy Tree Drawn by Paul Riboud

Editor’s Note: Paul Riboud, who lived to be 100, graduated in 1891 with honors from France’s most prestigious university, Ecole Polytechnique. He was trained there as a civil engineer and went on to both a successful career and personal life. Both of these aspects of his life were filled with exceptional challenges, triumphs and tragedies.  His later years, when I had a chance to meet him, entailed a rich family life, but along the way some of his closest family members had predeceased him. In his work, he rose to enormous responsibilities in France as Director General of the France’s Railways of the East (Directeur Général des Chemins de Fer de l’Est).

And in his working life, he also endured the painful Lagny train wreck that occurred on his watch in 1933. The accident killed 204 passengers and injured 120. One of the histories records the scene:

Lagny, France 23 December 1933. The Paris – Strasbourg Express 25 bis left Paris close behind the Paris – Nancy train which had been severely delayed due to the foggy conditions that prevailed that evening. Near Lagny, about 17 miles (23Km) from Paris, the Strasbourg express having overun signals, ploughed into the rear of the Nancy train. The resulting carnage was one of France’s worst rail disasters. Signals had been set to protect the Nancy train. A combination of darkness, fog and signals that were only dimly lit by oil lamps made it difficult for drivers to spot which aspect was being displayed. Neither the tractionaire (driver) Daubigny nor his fireman Charpentier seem to have noticed that caution signals and a danger signal were set against them.

Eulogy for Bon-Papa

Introduction to

Albert Caquot’s

Eulogy for Paul Riboud

Jean-François Latour writing on May 24, 2012 to members of the Latour and Riboud families:

This is about our common grandfather, Paul Riboud:

Having celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of my graduation from the school a few days ago[1], I had the opportunity to contact the magnificent library of the School at Palaiseau. I gave them some books inherited from Bon-Papa, notably the Astronomy and Geodesy[2] books. In the margins were Bon-Papa’s annotations. This greatly interested the archivist as a testament to how the course was received!
I also gave him a very nice book published in 1894 on the occasion of the centenary of the founding of the School. This book has many pretty prints and tells of school life and traditions. It also contains biographies of many illustrious alumni.
But this very bulky book was in bad shape, and I thought it would be better in a place where it would be restored and enhanced.
A graphic on the first page had “Ex-Libris Riboud.” It was an ex-libris with the R and the owl. This greatly amused the archivist. He will keep it with a reference indicating that these books belonged to Paul Riboud, together with a biographical note about him.
The archivist confirmed to us that he is very interested in documents on the school’s early alumni (the “ancients”), such as books, letters[1], photos and the like provided by their families. He said all of this was easily accessible regarding earlier graduates, but were not so available for recent alumni.
He showed us the competition register of 1891 where we could see the notes of Paul Riboud, who had extra recognition because he also had a literary baccalaureate. Paul’s grades over the two years of school developed spectacularly:
Entry: 264 °; Rank 1st;
First Semester of First Year, Rank 35th;
End of First Year, Rank 10th; and
End of Second Year, Rank 15th.
The archivist also gave us a copy of the superb speech given in 1935 by Bon-Papa when he gave his friend Albert Caquot his Academician of Science sword. The copy is not very readable, and I did not attach it, but I did put below the article by Albert Caquot. It appeared in the journal of the school (La Jaune et La Rouge) in March, 1973. Since it was written only a few months after Bon-Papa’s death, you will surely learn something new about our grandfather.


[1] “The Maison Latour house had sponsored the event by providing a wine with lunch. In the little speech I gave on this occasion, I recalled that the Latour house (1797) was almost contemporary with the school (1794), and that the Latour House was located in Beaune, home of Gaspard Monge!”

The school referred to is the French Ministry of Defense Engineering School originally located in Paris, but since 1976 in Palaiseau, France. Gaspard Monge was a mathematician, expert in mechanical and architectural drawing, and a founder of the school. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica:

École Polytechnique, (French: “Polytechnic School”) was established in 1794 by the National Convention as the École Centrale des Travaux Publics (“Central School of Public Works”) under the leadership of Lazare Carnot and Gaspard Monge. It took its present name in 1795 and absorbed the state artillery school in 1802. Originally under the direction of the Ministry of the Interior, it was transformed into a military school by Napoleon (1804). In the past, most graduates became technical officers in the military forces; today most go into government service or business. There are faculties of mathematics, mechanical engineering, physics, chemistry, economics, and humanities and social sciences.

Gaspard Monge, count de Péluse, (born May 10, 1746, Beaune, France—died July 28, 1818, Paris), French mathematician who invented descriptive geometry, the study of the mathematical principles of representing three-dimensional objects in a two-dimensional plane; no longer an active discipline in mathematics, the subject is part of mechanical and architectural drawing. He was a prominent figure during the French Revolution, helping to establish the metric system and the École Polytechnique. He was made a count in 1808 by Napoleon I. Monge was educated at the Oratorian schools at Beaune and at Lyon, where for a time at age 16 he was a physics teacher. He made a large-scale plan of Beaune during a visit in 1762, devising methods of observation and constructing the necessary surveying instruments. Impressed with the plan, a military officer recommended Monge to the commandant of the aristocratic military school of Mézières, where he was accepted as a draftsman.


“Geodesy” according to the definition in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is:

a branch of applied mathematics concerned with the determination of the size and shape of the earth and the exact positions of points on its surface and with the description of variations of its gravity field.

About Albert Caquot

The Eulogist of Paul Riboud

Editor’s Note: Albert Caquot (1881-1886) wrote the eulogy of Paul Riboud that appears below. It was first published shortly after Paul Riboud’s death in the March 1973 issue of Ecole Polytechnique’s journal, The Yellow and the Red, In addition to being Paul Riboud’s friend he was also a graduate of Ecole Polytechnique, a world class engineer, and broad minded visionary. This short biographical note about Caquot appeared in a book review recalling his life and published in the October, 2001 issue of The Yellow and the Red. Among Caquot’s own ingenious engineering feats was designing an original dam on the Brittany coast of the English Channel at Saint-Malo. It was an engineering project built for Climate Change before we even knew about Climate Change. Encyclopaedia Britannica describes this work as “the world’s first large-scale tidal plant using flood and ebb tides to generate electricity.”

Time continues to shed additional light on the work of Albert Caquot (X 1899). This great scholar was one of the most influential of his century and one of the most enlightened minds of his time. There are researchers who have only one string to their bow; such was not the case. What does a tail balloon, a tidal power plant, a cable-stayed bridge or a caquoid have in common? All these inventions were the work of this great engineer, whose talent was successfully exercised in many fields.

A skilled designer, tireless calculator, Albert Caquot also knew how to discern the path of forces in matter in order to discipline them, also passing easily from aerodynamics to hydrodynamics. It was to the latter area that he devoted the end of his life, developing his thoughts as a visionary.

This book is also the witness of most of the past century. Real desire for young intelligences from a modest background to rise in society. Dedication of the masters of instruction. The first aerial flights and the primacy of the lighter-than-air in land and sea battles. Indomitable patriotism during the First World War. In line with the works of the Universal Exhibitions, popular enthusiasm still manifested for several decades towards major civil engineering works.

And also, European rivalries, carelessness of our finances, ruinous devaluations, weakness of our foreign exchange reserves with the absolute necessity of exploiting all the renewable energy sites… Yes, Albert Caquot’s life is inscribed on this backdrop, the backdrop of the twentieth century of which it follows all the contours.

Through the description of the life and work of this extraordinary character, this book sheds light on a whole section of the history of the 20th century, a story full of richness and passion.