Dunant, Henry

BORN 8 May 1828, Genève - DIED 30 Oct 1910, Heiden, Appenzell Ausserrhoden
GRAVE LOCATION Zürich: Friedhof Sihlfeld D (FG 81268 (Ehrengrab))

Henri Dunant was the son of the merchant Jean Jacques Dunant and his wife Anne-Antoinette Colladon. When he was not yet twenty years old he founded a movement that held bible readings and bisited sick and old people. In 1852 he left the Calvin Gymnasium because his results were bad.

He was involved in colonial schemes and in 1856 he obtained a concession a for a peace of land in Algeria. He also tried to invest in the building of mills. In 1859 he published his essay "Das Römische Reich" and he dedicated it to Napoleon III.

There was trouble with his concession in Paris and at the time of the Batttle of Solferino he arrived in Italy to see if he could talk to Napoleon III about the concession. He witnessed the thousands of wounded after the battle and spontaneously decided to care for wounded soldiers of both sides, organizing the local people to help them. In 1861 he wrote "Un Souvenir de Solferino" in which he pleaded for neutral organisation that should care for the wounded. It was published as a book in 1862 and he sent it to important people in Europe. With the support of Gustave Moynier an international committee was founded in 1863 and this would eventually become the Red Cross.

In 1865 he met Napoleon III in Algeria and he asked him for support for his mill project. In September 1866 he was invited by queen Augusta as a guest of honour for the celebration of the homecoming of the German soldiers from Austria. In 1867 he and his familly lost their entire fortune and after he was convicted of deceptive practices he was forced to resign from his committee. Moynier was now President of the committee and played a vital part in the removal of Dunant.

He left for Paris where he lived in poor circumstances, although he received a gold medal for his work art the World Exhibition in Paris in 1868. In 1872 he met the rich widow Léonie Kastner who supported his work and often himself. He left for London to find support for his idea of a convention for prisoners of war. During a speech he broke down from hunger. By 1874 he was sleeping under bridges until some distant family members provided him with a small yearly income. He travelled in Europe and to Corfu and by 1877 he seemed forgotten by the world. He was allowed to live in the house of the priest Ernst Wagner in Stuttgart until Wagner's widow Ida died in 1885. Léonie Kastner died in 1888.

Dunant settled in Heiden where he was visited by athe journalist Georg Baumberger, who wrote an article about him as the founder of the Red Cross, causing Dunant to be rediscovered by the world. In 1901 the first Nobel Prize for Peace was awarded to Dunant and to the pacifist Frédéric Passy. In 1908 his 80th birthday was celebrated worldwide. During his last years he suffered from paranoisa, fearing that his creditors and Moynier would come after him. In 1910 he died in Heiden.

Related persons
• cooperated with Dufour, Guillaume Henri
• was a friend of Kastner, Léonie
• met Napoleon III Bonaparte
• corresponded with Suttner, Bertha von


The grave of Henri Dunant at the Sihlfeld Cemetery, Zürich.
Picture by Androom (18 Aug 2005)


The grave of Henri Dunant at the Sihlfeld Cemetery, Zürich.
Picture by Androom (18 Aug 2005)


Henry Dunant - Wikipedia

Duncan, Isadora

Published: 05 Jun 2010
Last update: 16 Jan 2022