Jean Henry Dunant, Frédéric Passy

Nobel Peace Prize 1901

Jean Henry Dunant

Founder of the Red Cross

In 1859, a battle was raging at the town of Solferino in Northern Italy. There the Swiss businessman Henry Dunant saw thousands of Italian, French and Austrian soldiers killing and maiming each other. On his own initiative, he organized aid work. Later he wrote the book A Memory of Solferino, which contained a plan: all countries should form associations to help the sick and wounded on the battlefield - whichever side they belonged to.The result was the establishment of the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1863, and the adoption of the Geneva Convention in the following year. It laid down that all wounded soldiers in a land war should be treated as friends. Medical personnel would be protected by the red cross in a white field.For Dunant personally, financial difficulties led to poverty and loss of social respect. But the organization he had created grew, and the underlying ideas won gradual acceptance. It pleased the ageing Dunant that the Norwegian Nobel Committee rewarded his life's work with the Nobel Peace Prize.

Frédéric Passy

Scientist, politician and peace activist

At the turn of the century, everyone agreed that Frédéric Passy was a worthy Laureate. In both age and prominence, he was the "dean" of the international peace movement. Both as an economist and as a politician, he maintained that free trade between independent nations promoted peace. Passy founded the first French Peace Society, which held a congress in Paris during the 1878 World Exhibition. As an independent leftist republican in the French Chamber of Deputies, he opposed France's colonial policy because it did not accord with the ideals of free trade.Passy was also one of the founders of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, an organization for cooperation between the elected representatives of different countries. Despite his age, Passy kept up his work for peace after 1901. In 1905, when the conflict over the union between Sweden and Norway peaked, Passy declared that a peaceful solution would make him a hundred times happier than when he received the Nobel Prize. And Passy saw his wish fulfilled.