The life of Henry Dunant

Henry Dunant – born on May 8, 1828 in Geneva as the eldest son of a respected middle-class family – had a carefree youth. Early on, through the social commitment of his mother, the young Henry was confronted with poverty and the misery of the lower classes of the city of Geneva. These encounters helped form his social commitments, ones which remained strong throughout his lifetime.

After an apprenticeship in banking in Geneva, Henry Dunant dabbled as an entrepreneur in North Africa. In 1859 concern for his company brought him to northern Italy, where the Battle of Solferino was raging. Dunant witnessed the suffering and misery of the soldiers left on the battlefield. His deep anguish over what he had seen led him to write the book “Un souvenir de Solférino”.

This book was the basis for the creation of the Red Cross in 1863. Dunant then enjoyed several years of European-wide respect and adulation. However, following the bankruptcy of his company in Algeria in 1867, Dunant spent his next twenty years in poverty, loneliness and disease. Through his friends in Stuttgart, he came to Heiden in the Swiss region of Appenzell, where he spent the last 23 years of his life, passing away on October 30, 1910.