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Guillaume Henri Dufour


Guillaume-Henri Dufour (15 September 1787, Konstanz[1] - 14 July 1875, Geneva) was a Swiss general, bridge engineer and topographer. He served under Napoleon I and led the Swiss forces to victory against the Sonderbund. He presided over the first Geneva convention which established the International Red Cross. He was the most famous president of the Swiss Federal Office of Topography from 1838 to 1865.

The Dufourspitze (the highest mountain in Switzerland) of Monte Rosa massif is named for him.

Early years

Dufour's 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 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.[1]

By 1814, he had returned to France, and was awarded the Croix de la Légion d'Honneur for his work repairing fortifications at Lyons. In 1817, he 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. His duties included preparing a map of the Canton.[1]

Saint Antoine Bridge


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.[1]

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[1]. The cables stretched 131 feet between the towers, although the largest span was only 109 feet[2].


  1. ^ a b c d e Peters, Tom F., "Transitions in Engineering: Guillaume Henri Dufour and the Early 19th Century Cable Suspension Bridges", Birkhauser, 1987, ISBN 3-7643-1929-1
  2. ^ Drewry, Charles Stewart, "A Memoir of Suspension Bridges", 1832, online at [1]
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Guillaume_Henri_Dufour". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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