2019 – Paolo Vanni

Paolo VanniProfessor Paolo Vanni used to be Professor of Chemistry at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Florence.  After retiring, he devoted himself to the history of the Red Cross and of medicine.  He thus founded in 2002 the “Ufficio Storico della Croce Rossa Italiana”, which is attached to the Regional Committee of Tuscany of the Italian Red Cross.

With the help of a small group of volunteers, whom he recruited and motivated, this service deployed numerous activities to train volunteers and staff of the Italian Red Cross concerning the history of the Red Cross and of medicine, and to inform the public through conferences and publications.  

We can mention in particular the following :

  • The organization of thirteen annual courses about the history of the Red Cross and of medicine, gathering 60 to 80 participants.
  • The organisation in 2010 of a conference in Fiesole, near Florence, in honour of the hundredth anniversary of the death of Florence Nightingale, with over 200 participants. 
  • The organisation in June 2017 at the Vallombrosa Abbey in the Tuscan Appennins of a conference about the history of the Red Cross and of medicine during the First World War, with about 150 participants.
  • The publication by photo-mechanical process of Henry Dunant’s manuscripts preserved at the Department of manuscripts of the Geneva Library.  This publication allows researchers, anywhere in the world, to have access to these manuscripts without having to travel to Geneva.
  • The publication of several works on the history of the Italian Red Cross.
  • The translation and publication of several books published in French : Un souvenir de Solférino and Mémoires by Henry Dunant; Dr Marcel Junod, The Third Combattant; Pierre Boissier, From Solferino to Tsushima, History of the International Committee of the Red Cross, vol. I; André Durand, From Sarajevo to Hiroshima, History of the International Committee of the Red Cross, vol. II; Roger Durand, Henry Dunant, 1828-1910; François Bugnion, Gustave Moynier, 1826-1910.

Prior to his death on 29 October 2018, Professor Vanni and his team were working on the translation of volumes III and IV of the history of the CICR (Catherine Rey-Schyrr, From Yalta to Dien Bien Phu,History of the International Committee of the Red Cross, vol. III ; Françoise Perret and  François Bugnion, From Budapest to Saigon, History of the International Committee of the Red Cross, vol. IV.  These two projects are significant, as these books have 750 and 650 pages, respectively.

Whether through the organization of courses or conferences, his publications or the translation of publications of the CICR or from other sources, Professor Vanni and his team have contributed remarkably to spread the knowledge of the history of the Red Cross, and therefore to improve the understanding of the fundamental principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.  They have contributed to the formation of many hundred volunteers or Italian Red Cross staff members.  Finally, they have also contributed to make the written work of Henry Dunant better known, and thus to promote the memory of the founder of the Red Cross. 

In April 2006, in recognition of those achievements, the President of the Italian Red Cross at the time, Dr. Massimo Barra and the National Board of Directors unanimously appointed Prof. Paolo Vanni National Delegate for his research, information and education on the issues of History of the Red Cross with the following citation: “This appointment is the result not only of his great commitment to the Red Cross but also his expertise on the History of the Red Cross.”

The Henry Dunant Field Prize 2019 was given to Prof. Paolo Vanni’s wife, Maria Rita Bosi-Vanni, in Florence on 2 October 2018 during an official ceremony at the headquarters of the Red Cross of Tuscany in the presence of Francesco Rocca, President of the Italian Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, a ceremony he could not attend for health reasons. The diploma and our appreciation for a life devoted to the Red Cross were given to him privately at the hospital by Roger Durand and François Bugnion, members of the Foundation’s board.  Prof. Paolo Vanni passed away a few days later, on 29 October 2018, after a cruel illness that he faced with courage.

Prof. Paolo Vanni shares the Field Prize 2019 with Mrs. Maria Grazia Baccolo, a colleague and friend. 

On 22 June 2019, Prof. Paolo Vanni was awarded posthumously the gold medal of the Italian Red Cross ; the President of the Society, Francesco Rocca, handed over this highest distinction to his widow, Maria Rita Bosi-Vanni, in Solferino, on the day of the famous Fiaccolata (march with torches).