|Guillaume-Henri Dufour (Source)|
Guillaume-Henri Dufour (15 September 1787, Konstanz – 14 July 1875, Geneva) was a Swiss army officer, bridge engineer and topographer. He served under Napoleon I and held the office of General to lead the Swiss forces to victory against the Sonderbund. He presided over the First Geneva Convention which established the International Red Cross. He was founder and president of the Swiss Federal Office of Topography from 1838 to 1865.
The Dufourspitze (the highest mountain in Switzerland) in the Monte Rosa Massif is named after him.
CareerDufour was born in Konstanz, where his parents were temporarily exiled from Geneva. His father Bénédict was a Genevan watchmaker and farmer, who sent his son to school in Geneva, where he studied drawing and medicine. In 1807, Dufour travelled to Paris to join the École Polytechnique, then a military academy. He studied descriptive geometry under Jean Nicolas Pierre Hachette, and graduated fifth in his class in 1809, going on to study military engineering at the École d'Application.
In 1810, he was sent to help defend Corfu against the British, and spent his time mapping the island's old fortifications.
By 1814, he had returned to France, and was awarded the Croix de la Légion d'Honneur for his work repairing fortifications at Lyons. In 1817, he returned to Geneva to become commander of the Canton of Geneva's military engineers, as well as a professor of mathematics at the University of Geneva. His duties included preparing a map of the Canton.
Dufour remained a General in the army. Among the officers serving under him was Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of the former Emperor.
In 1847 the Catholic cantons of Switzerland attempted to form a separate alliance of their own, known as the Sonderbund, effectively splitting from the rest of the country. Dufour led the federal army of 100,000 and defeated the Sonderbund under Johann-Ulrich von Salis-Soglio in a campaign that lasted only from November 3 to November 29, and claimed fewer than a hundred victims. He ordered his troops to spare the injured.
In 1850 the mountaineer and topographer Johann Coaz served as his private secretary.
In 1863 he was part of a committee which, under Henry Dunant led to the foundation of the International Red Cross.
On 16 July 1875, 60,000 persons participated at Dufour's burial at Cimetière de Plainpalais in Geneva.
Saint Antoine Bridge
Dufour acted as state engineer from 1817, although he was not officially appointed as such until 1828. His work included rebuilding a pumping station, quays and bridges, and he arranged the first steam boat on Lake Geneva as well as the introduction of gas streetlights.
The scientist Marc-Auguste Pictet had visited Marc Seguin's temporary wire-cable simple suspension bridge at Annonay in 1822, the first wire-cable bridge in the world, and published details in Switzerland. He joined with others to promote a new bridge across the Genevan fortifications, consulting with Seguin on how it might be built, receiving back a series of sketches. Dufour developed the design in late 1822, proposing a two-span suspension bridge using wire cables - this would become the first permanent wire cable suspension bridge in the world. The design used three cables on each side of an iron and timber bridge deck. The cables stretched 131 feet between the towers, although the largest span was only 109 feet
Civil wars can be highly destructive events for a nation: for the people, for the infrastructure, for the society as a whole. Just look what happened to the USA in the 1860s: the number of men who were killed or maimed, the destruction to property, and the forced ‘reconstruction’ of the Southern States after the war. It’s an example why civil wars should be avoided at all costs.
Guillaume-Henri Dufour was in an un-enviable position of leading the army during the Sonderbund, Switzerlands civil war. He could have played 'hard ball' and sought out to destroy those who opposed him, but he didn't. He managed to end the civil war with only a dozen or so casualties, and he also ensured that enemy soldiers were treated well. That takes a level and compassionate head. If there were more men like Dufour in positions of power when a civil war kicked off, on both sides, then in short the world would be a better place.