Fellow students on their way to class in the morning may have noticed this chap peering at them by the train station. But who was he?
Robert Comtesse was born in Valangin, a mere 15 minutes away by car from the centre of Neuchâtel, in 1847. He studied law in various locations, including Neuchâtel, before establishing himself as a lawyer here in 1869.
Comtesse became involved in politics as a member of the Parti radical-démocratique and was eventually elected to the Federal Council, Switzerland’s collective head of state, in 1899, a post that he would hold until 1912. As well as leading various departments, Comtesse was a key figure behind the creation of the Banque nationale Suisse.
Observing the events of the First World War only served to strengthen Comtesse’s pacifist beliefs and he pushed for Switzerland’s entry into the League of Nations, predecessor to the UN. He died in 1922. Neuchâtel’s Quai Robert-Comtesse is named after him.