History of Red Cross

(1828 – 1910)
The man whose vision led to the creation of the Worldwide Red Cross and Red Crescent movement.
He went from riches to rags but became joint recipient of the first Nobel Peace Prize.

History of Red Cross:

Jean Henry Dunant (May 8, 1828 – October 30, 1910), was a Swiss business man and social activist. During a business trip in 1859, he was witness to the aftermath of the Battle of Solferino in modern day Italy. He recorded his memories and experiences in the book A Memory of Solferino which inspired the creation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1863. The 1864 Geneva Convention was based on Dunant’s ideas. In 1901 he received the first Nobel Peace Prize together with Frederic Passy.
The man whose vision led to the creation to the Worldwide Red Cross and Red Crescent movement. He sent from riches to rags but became joint recipient of the first Nobel Peace Prize.
Henry Dunant was born on 8 May, 1828. After complete secondary schooling, he was apprenticed to a Geneva Bank. He wanted to approach Napoleon III to obtain the business documents he needed. At the time, Napolean III was commanding the Frnaco-Sardinian troops fighting the Austrians in northern Italy. Henry Dunant decided to meet him and this was how he came to be present at the end of the battle of Solferino, in Lombardy.
Returning to Geneva he wrote a book “A Memory of Solferino” which led to creation of the International Committee for relief to the wounded and Henry Dunant was a member and acted as Secretary. Through he was famous, his financial affairs were going from bad to worst and he was declared bankrupt in 1867.
He resigned from the post of Secretary of the committee on 8th September, 1867 the Committee decided to accept his resignation not only as Secretary but also as member. Dunant left for Paris, where he was reduced to sleeping on public benches. There followed years of wandering living on charity and hospitality of few friends. Remained unknown from 1876 to 1887.
Finally ended up in Swiss village of Heiden, where he fell ill. He found refuge in local hospital, where he was discovered by a Journalist George Baumberger, who wrote an article about him and because of this article, messages of sympathy reached Dunant from all over the World, he became famous once more and honoured. In 1901, he received the Nobel peace prize. He expired on 30th October, 1910. The date of his birth 8th May is celebrated as World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day.



8th May, 1828

Birth of Sir Henri Dunant in Geneva (Switzerland)
Father Name: Jeans Jack Dunant
Mother Name: Mrs. Antoine



After completion of qualification in Calvin College he learned Banking work. Being religious he made a Association of Young Christians and formed Young Man Christian Association (YMCA).



After learning the banking work he was appointed as General Manager in Algeria whose business was Stone mining and Wheat Flouring.


25th August, 1858

Left the job of General Manager and formed his own company on the similar basis.


23rd June, 1859

To promote his business, he visited Italy at Castileon town in the battlefield of Lambardi to meet Napolean 3rd king of France, who was there to support Italy to get free its town Selfarino which was occupied by Austria unauthorisely.  


24th  June, 1859

The war started between Italy and Austria and Henri Dunant saw the bloodshed and devastations during the war.



He shared his bitter experiences of war through his book named “Memory of Selfarino” which was circulated by him throughout the world. Proposing to stop wars and form a committee for relief to wounded soldiers, which was globally appreciated.


9th February, 1863

The then social activists of Geneva appreciated the proposal and constituted a committee of five members and fix a date on 26th October, 1863 to invite Head of the States of Europe: -
1. Guillaume Henri Dufour (1787-18750) General (Retired) – President.
2. Gustavo Moynier (1826-1910) Lawyer – Member
3. Theodore Maunoir (1806-1870) Doctor – Member
4. Louis Appia (1818-1898) Doctor – Member.
5. Henri Dunant (1828-1910) – Secretary Member


26th to 29th October, 1863

Meeting was held on 26th October, 1863 in Anthony Hall, Geneva and representative of 14 Countries participated and Formed International Committee for relief to wounded soldier.  The name was changed as ICRC in year 1880.


25th August, 1867

Left Red Cross due to some misunderstandings amongst the Members of the Committee and returned back to his business place at Algeria and where he found that his friend, Hanery Nic, cheated and ran away and the Company became bankrupt due to heavy liabilities. Then he decided to go underground.    



During the days of his underground he suffered with poverty and many other health problems and the started people hating him due to skin diseases. Then he decided to go Heiden, a Health Resort at Switzerland.



At Heiden, Dr. Albar, who was running a hospital there, saw his condition and admitted him in his Hospital at Room No. 12.



Mr. John fishter, Secretary, District Red Cross Branch Wintercure near Heiden met him in the Hospital and recognised Henry Dunant (who was earlier declared dead) and introduced him to Media mentioning his background and achievements made by him.



Henry Dunant was Awarded Nobel Peace Prize (Personal) by the Government of Norway.


30th October, 1910

Passed away.


20th March, 1920

Indian Red Cross Society Act, 1920 under Section- XV was constituted by the Indian Parliament.


1917, 1944 and 10-12-1963

Three Nobel Peace Prizes were awarded to the Red Cross (Institutional Award)


(a)  1917

Nobel Prize:- During first World War 1914-1919

1. 15th October, 1914 a committee of Prisoner of War (POW) was formed with 1200 volunteers.
2. 20 million letter/messages delivered to next of kins of POWs
3. 1.9 million parcels were sent.
4. 20,000 POWs were exchanged.


(b) 1944

Nobel Prize:- During second World War:-

1. 179 delegates conducted 12750 visits to POW Camps in 41 countries with 3000 volunteers.
2. 45 million cards, 120 million messages exchanged.


(c) 10th December, 1963

Awarded Nobel Prize on the performance of 100 years of the Red Cross.


22nd August, 1864, 1906, 1929 and 12th August, 1949

Geneva Conventions were held for setting protocols for POWs.


20th October, 1965

Principles of Red Cross were formed in the Meeting of ICRC in Austria at Viana on completion of 100 years of the Red Cross: -

1. Humanity
2. Impartiality
3. Neutrality
4. Independence
5. Voluntary Service
6. Unity
7. Universality