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Dufour, Wilhelm Heinrich

DUFOUR, WILHELM HEINRICH [Guillaume Henri] (1787-1875), Swiss general, was born at Constance of Genevese parents temporarily in exile, on the 15th of September 1787. In 1807 he went to the Ecole Polytechnique at Paris, Switzerland being then under French rule, taking the 140th place only in his entrance examination. By two years' close study he so greatly improved his position that he was ranked fifth in the exit examination. Immediately on leaving the school he received a commission in the engineers, and was sent to serve in Corfu, which was blockaded by the English. During the Hundred Days he attained the rank of captain, and was employed in raising fortifications at Grenoble. After the peace that followed Waterloo he resumed his status as a Swiss citizen, and devoted himself to the military service of his native land. From 1819 to 1830 he was chief instructor in the military school of Thun, which had been founded mainly through his instrumentality. Among other distinguished foreign pupils he instructed Louis Napoleon, afterwards emperor of the French. In 1827 he was raised to the rank of colonel, and commanded the Federal army in a series of field manœuvres. In 1831 he became chief of the staff, and soon afterwards he was appointed quartermaster-general. Two years later the 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 larger work occupied thirty-two years, and was accomplished with complete success. The map in 25 sheets on the scale of 1/100000 was published at intervals between 1842 and 1865, and is an admirable specimen of cartography. In recognition of the ability with which Dufour had carried out his task, the Federal Council in 1868 ordered the highest peak of Monte Rosa to be named Dufour Spitze. In 1847 Dufour was made general of the Federal Army, which was employed in reducing the revolted Catholic cantons. The quickness and thoroughness with which he performed the painful task, and the wise moderation with which he treated his vanquished fellow-countrymen, were acknowledged by a gift of 60,000 francs from the diet and various honours from different cities and cantons of the confederation. In politics he belonged to the moderate conservative party, and he consequently lost a good deal of his popularity in 1848. In 1864 he presided over the international conference which framed the Geneva Convention as to the treatment of the wounded in time of war, etc. He died on the 14th of July 1875. His De la fortification permanente (1850) is an important and original contribution to the science of fortification, and he was also the author of a Mémoire sur l'artillerie des anciens et sur celle du moyen âge (1840), Manuel de tactique pour les officiers de toutes armes (1842), and various other works in military science. His memoir, La Campagne du Sonderbund (Paris, 1876), is prefaced by a biographical notice. An equestrian statue of General Dufour was erected after his death at Geneva by national subscription.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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