Louis Appia, 1818–1898: Humanitarian pioneer and co-founder of the Red Cross This year marks the bicentennial of the birth of the war surgeon Louis Appia. Born in Hanau, he studied in Germany and practiced as a doctor in Geneva from 1849. He earned his place in history by issuing an appeal for help for the wounded of the war in Italy, on 13 May 1859, nine weeks before Henry Dunant.
He took an active role in the founding of the ICRC on 9 February 1863, and helped run it for 36 years. In March of 1864, he became the first delegate sent to the battlefield, in Schleswig, by the organization that would later become known as the International Red Cross. His report and drawings of the “wounded of Schleswig” helped persuade the great powers to sign the Geneva Convention of 22 August 1864.
Deeply moved by the human suffering he witnessed as a doctor, Appia was in favor of extending the services of the Red Cross to civilians, a proposal that was met with opposition by his peers. He nevertheless continued to lecture and publish widely about social hygiene and first aid.
This important anniversary will be celebrated on 12 and 13 Octoberwith a guided walk in Geneva on the footsteps of Louis Appia, an exhibition about his life and work, a historical lecture and the unveiling of a commemorative plaque. All the events are open to the public. A detailed programme is available on www.louis-appia.ch.
Text by Robert Durand, president of the Henry Dunant society