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Henry Dunant (1828-1910)
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While visiting Northern Italy in 1859, Henry Dunant, a Swiss businessman, witnessed the aftermath of the Battle of Solferino, a battle between French-Sardinian and Austrian armies. He rallied local townswomen to assist the wounded and dying soldiers, regardless of their nationality. Haunted by the cruelty and inhumanity to the 40,000 dead and wounded on the battlefield, Dunant was moved to write a pamphlet, A Memory of Solferino (1862), in which he asked: "Would it not be possible to found and organize in all civilized countries permanent societies of volunteers which in time of war would render succor to the wounded without distinction of nationality?" His text influenced government officials and led to the formation of a "Committee of Five" (1863), a group known today as the International Committee of the Red Cross. His text also influenced the drafting of the First Treaty of Geneva of 1864, providing for the protection of the wounded and sick on the battlefield. In 1901, Dunant was one of two winners of the first Nobel Peace prize in honor of his contribution to humanitarian efforts and the International Red Cross. He died penniless in 1910 in a Swiss mountain village. The anniversary of his birth, May 8, 1828, continues to be celebrated as World Red Cross Day.


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