Guillaume Henri Dufour
|Born||15 September 1787|
Konstanz, Holy Roman Empire (modern Germany)
|Died||14 July 1875 (aged 87)|
|Allegiance|| First French Empire (1810-1817)|
|Years of service||1810-1875|
|Commands held||Swiss Federal Office of Topography|
|Other work||Professor of mathematics, cartographer, founding committee of the International Red Cross|
Guillaume Henri Dufour (15 September 1787 – 14 July 1875) was a Swiss army-officer, bridge-engineer and topographer. He served under Napoleon I and held the Swiss office of General four times in his career, firstly in 1847 when he led the Swiss Confederation forces to victory against the Sonderbund. In 1864 Dufour presided over the First Geneva Convention which established the International Red Cross. He was founder and president (1838 to 1865) of the Swiss Federal Office of Topography.
Dufour 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, attained the rank of captain, and was awarded the Croix de la Légion d'Honneur for his work repairing fortifications at Lyons. In 1817, he resumed his status as a Swiss citizen, and 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. From 1819 to 1830 he was chief instructor in the military school of Thun, which had been founded mainly through his efforts. Among other distinguished foreign pupils he instructed Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of the former Emperor.
In 1827 he was raised to the rank of colonel, and commanded the Federal army in a series of field manoeuvres. In 1831 he became chief of the staff, and soon afterwards he was appointed quartermaster-general. Two years later the Tagsatzung (diet) commissioned him to superintend the execution of a complete trigonometrical survey of Switzerland. He had already made a cadastral survey of the canton of Geneva, and published a map of the canton on the scale of 1/25000. The final map in 25 sheets on the scale of 1/100000 was published at intervals between 1842 and 1865.
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. The Tagsatzung appointed Dufour General on 21 October 1847, and he led the federal army of 100,000 and defeated the Sonderbund under Johann-Ulrich von Salis-Soglio in a campaign that lasted only from 3 to 29 November, and claimed fewer than a hundred victims. He ordered his troops to spare the injured. For example, on November 13, 1847, when everything was ready for the offensive, he sent Lieutenant de Cerjat as an emissary to the authorities of the city of Fribourg enjoining them to surrender in order to avoid a deadly battle. His success, and the moderation with which he treated his vanquished fellow-countrymen, were acknowledged by a gift of 60,000 francs from the Tagsatzung and various honours from different cities and cantons of the confederation.
In addition to serving in the position of General in 1847 due to the Sonderbund War, the Federal Assembly appointed him to the same position in August 1849 due to the Baden Revolution, on 27 December 1856 due to the Neuchâtel Crisis, and in 1859 due to the Second Italian War of Independence.
In 1863 he was part of a committee with Gustave Moynier, Henry Dunant, Louis Appia and Théodore Maunoir that discussed Dunant's ideas for the creation of a voluntary care organization for the assistance of the wounded in battle. Dunant's vision and the committees work ultimately led to the foundation of the International Red Cross. The following year he presided over the international conference which framed the First Geneva Convention as to the treatment of the wounded in time of war.
On 16 July 1875, 60,000 persons participated at Dufour's burial at Cimetière de Plainpalais in Geneva.
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.
Memorials are at:
Numerous cities and towns in Switzerland have streets named for him: rue du Général-Dufour in Geneva, La Chaux-de-Fonds; via Gen. Henri Dufour in Chiasso; rue du Général- Dufour/General-Dufour-Strasse in Biel/Bienne; Dufourstrasse in Aarau, Basel, Bern, Biberist, Lenzburg, Luzern, Rorschach, St. Gallen, Thun, Weinfelden, Wettingen, Wil, Zollikon, Zürich; via Dufour in Lugano. There is also Dufourplatz in Zollikon.