He was educated at the College Henri IV, and subsequently studied law, attending simultaneously the classes at the Paris conservatoire of music, for he was a good musician. He became sous-préfet of Nérac in 1830, and advanced rapidly in the civil service until in 1853 he was chosen by Persigny prefect of the Seine département in succession to Jean Jacques Berger, who hesitated to incur the vast expenses of the imperial schemes for the embellishment of Paris. Haussmann would remain in this post until 1870.
Commissioned by Napoleon III to instigate a program of planning reforms in Paris, Haussmann laid out the Bois de Boulogne, and made extensive improvements in the smaller parks. The gardens of the Luxembourg Palace were cut down to allow of the formation of new streets, and the Boulevard de Sebastopol, the southern half of which is now the Boulevard St Michel, was driven through a populous district. Additional, sweeping changes made wide "boulevards" of hitherto narrow streets. A new water supply, a gigantic system of sewers, new bridges, the opera, and other public buildings, the inclusion of outlying districts—these were among the new prefect's achievements, accomplished by the aid of a bold handling of the public funds which called forth Jules Ferry's indictment, Les Comptes fantastiques de Haussmann, in 1867. (A play on words between contes, stories or tales, and comptes, accounts.)
A loan of 250 million francs was sanctioned for the city of Paris in 1865, and another of 260 million in 1869. These sums represented only part of his financial schemes, which led to his dismissal by the government of Émile Ollivier. After the fall of the Empire he spent about a year abroad, but he re-entered public life in 1877, when he became Bonapartist deputy for Ajaccio.
His work had destroyed much of the medieval city. It is estimated that he transformed 60% of Paris' buildings. Notably, he redesigned the Place de l'Etoile, and created long avenues giving perspectives on monuments such as the Arc de Triomphe and the Opera Garnier.
Haussmann had been made senator in 1857, member of the Academy of Fine Arts in 1867, and grand cross of the Legion of Honour in 1862. He died in Paris and is buried in Le Cimetière Père Lachaise, Paris. His name is preserved in the Boulevard Haussmann. His later years were occupied with the preparation of his Mémoires (3 vols., 1890-1893).
Parts of this entry were originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.