Emile BASLY (1854-1928), who adopted Lens as his home town, left his mark on the town of Lens. His statue currently stands at the roundabout at the corner of the route d'Arras and the avenue Maës. Born in Valenciennes, he lost both his mother and father at the age of three and started to work in the mines from the age of eleven. The strikes of 1878 gave him the opportunity to show his talents as an organizer. He played a significant role in the strikes resulting in him being discharged from the Anzin mines. In 1882, the Mining Union of Anzin, that he had worked to create, appointed him to be its general secretary. The 1884 strike, that became national news, made him famous. He was elected MP of the Seine in 1885 and was beaten at the Legislative elections of 1889. He then chose a fallback solution by getting his own way in Lens with the heads of the Pas-de-Calais Mining Union. He was then elected MP for Lens in 1891 as the Union candidate. His political career has remained linked to the town of Lens ever since. Under his administration, Lens's population grew from 20,000 to 36,000 becoming the capital of the houiller basin. He stopped at nothing to attract the crowds of this highly populated region: big demonstrations, various competitions, inaugurations of buildings, monuments... After the War, he devoted himself to the reconstruction. The final respects shown by the miners of the region at his funeral were impressive. He was replaced by Alfred MAËS (1928-1941) at the head of the local authority.
Other key figures distinguished themselves at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.
The chemist, Auguste BEHAL (born in Lens in 1859 - died in Mennecy in 1940) was influential in the development of science because of his work in research. He made many discoveries in organic chemistry applied to industry and health treatments. In 1921, he entered the Academy of Sciences and, in 1922, he became chairman of the "French Chemistry Society".
Edouard BOLLAERT (1813-1898), Ponts et Chaussées engineer (civil engineering), became general agent for the Mines of Lens in 1856. He played a crucial role in the development of the Lens Mining Company. He also worked on municipal affairs as a counsellor.
Félix BOLLAERT (1855-1936), son of Edouard, gave his name to the stadium of the Racing-Club de Lens. He was chairman of the Administrative Council for the Mines of Lens. But he was particularly remembered by the people of Lens as a philanthropist and benefactor for the town. He encouraged the development of music and sports societies.