Marcel Benoist was born in 1864 into a bourgeois family in Paris. He studied law and in 1889 took over his father’s law firm. About ten years later he stopped working in order to travel extensively throughout Europe. He was possessed by a strong determination to help other people and dedicate himself to the poor.
Marcel Benoist was a very reserved person. He had a wide range of interests and over the years amassed a vast amount of knowledge, inspiring the admiration of those he came into contact with. He was godfather to one Gabrielle Duvivier, daughter of some friends, who was his junior by 21 years; he played an important role in her life and supported her financially. She remained his secretary until his death.
In 1911 Marcel Benoist began transferring his wealth, library and art collection to Switzerland. In 1914 he moved to Lausanne. Always careful about his health, in 1918 Benoist nonetheless caught smallpox and died aged just 54. He had no family.