Hippolyte Dreyfus earned his doctorate in law in February 1898 and became the first French Bahá’í in 1901. In 1903 he gave up his legal career to devote himself to oriental studies. He enrolled at the École pratique des hautes études university in Paris, where he studied Arabic and Persian to be able to translate the Bahá’í writings into French. He was one of the only Western Bahá’ís of his generation to receive such formal training. He was the author of numerous books, articles and translations of the Bahá’í faith. After his marriage (1911) with the American Bahá’í Laura Clifford Barney, he adopted the name Dreyfus-Barney. He also traveled to numerous countries and represented the Bahá’ís in legal disputes. He died on 20 December 1928 and was buried in the Montmartre Cemetery in Paris.
Dreyfus-Barney attained in September 1902 with an American Bahá’í Lua Getsinger an audience with Muzaffar al-Din Shah in Paris. During this meeting the Shah was personally handed a petition to protect their co-religionists in Iran.
In 1914 Hippolyte and Laura Dreyfus-Barney visited the German colony of Qingdao, China, wanting to go on to travel up the Yangzi river (and overland) to Kunming, Yunnan Province. However due to the first world war breaking out (in 1914) they returned to Europe, escaping from Qingdao thanks to Hippolyte's adroitness. They got away from the German colony and returned to France in time for him to assume his military obligations.
In the twenties, Baha'u'llah's house in Baghdad fell into the hands of fanatical opponents of the Bahá’í Faith. Dreyfus Barney fought for this issue which concluded with the League Council condemning the occupation of the house. In Tunisia, he defended the Faith against the French administration. Dreyfus-Barney intervened around 1925 when a religious vocation Court in Egypt declared three marriages invalid because their spouses' were Bahá’ís. Dreyfus-Barney visited most European countries, the United States, Canada, Cuba, Mexico, Algeria, Tunisia, Burma, China, India, Japan, Persia, and many times the Holy Land.
Laura Clifford Barney
1879–1974 (m. 1911)
Yvonne Dreyfus-Cardozo Mayer-May