Monday, November 9, 2015

First laureates of the Nobel Peace Prize

In 1901, at the dawn of a new century, a new prize was introduced to the world – the Nobel Peace Prize. We will probably never know why have Alfred Nobel chosen a Norwegian committee to pick up a laureate meanwhile all other prizes are awarded by Swedish academy. However, it is not as important as the stories of those who were selected to hold the title of „The Nobel Peace Prize laureate“.

Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Norman Angell in 1933, public domain picture, source:

We all remember recent laureates like Barack Obama, the European Union, Malala Yousafzai  or IPCC panel (the Nobel Peace Prize can be awarded not only to persons, but also to an organization). But who were the first of all laureates?

Two men were awarded the prize in 1901, their names were Jean Henry Dunant and Frédéric Passy, they were from the Switzerland and France respectively.

Jean Henry Dunant was born in Geneva, in 1828. The crucial moment of his life came in 1859 when he witnessed the battlefield of Solferino shortly after the battle between the Austrian army and the alliance of France and Sardinia. He was deeply moved by what he saw - tens of thousands of dead and wounded soldiers, suffering, pain… He immediately started to help, he brought food, water, clean clothes… He has never forgot what he seen and in 1862, he published a book: „A Memory of Solferino“ in which he suggested creation of groups of neutral volunteers dedicated to help wounded of all sides of any conflict. His thoughts were listened and as a result, International Committee of the Red Cross was founded in 1863, one year later the Geneva Convention was adopted.

The Battle of Solferino by Henry Dunant, public domain picture, source:

Frédéric Passy was born in 1822 in Paris, France. He was an economist, university teacher, politician and supporter of an idea that free trade between nations will promote peace – an idea which is still valid today. He was a founder of several organizations promoting peace and dialogue between countries like Inter-Parliamentary Union or International and Permanent League of Peace. For his lifetime effort to promote peace and dialogue instead of military solutions of conflicts, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Jean Henry Dunant.

Frédéric Passy (left) and Jean Henry Dunant (right), both portraits are public domain pictures, source:
The Nobel Peace Prize of 1901 was indicating that human kind is entering a new period of peace and prosperity. It is not fault of these two great men that the 20th century looked very different after all.

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