Türr, István

(Baja, August 11th, 1825 – May 3rd, 1908)

Türr, István

István Türr, legendary hero of the European freedom fights in 1848, became a significant figure in the second part of his life as the organiser and expediter of the great canal constructions at the end of the 19th century.

He performed his famous technical work including the restoration of the Francis Canal, the construction of the Corinth Canal and partly the Panama Canal in the last period of his life.

His adventurous youth was spent in connection with the freedom fights of European and South-American nations. As a soldier and diplomat he had a significant influence on the political events of Europe between 1848 and 1867.

During the Hungarian revolution and war of independence of 1848 he got stuck in Italy where in 1849 he went over to the Piemontians who fought for the unity of Italy. After the suppression of the revolution he escaped to Switzerland, and then he went to stay in London for a longer period. At the end of 1855 on the commission of the English government he travelled to Romania where he was captured and carried to Vienna, brought to court-martial and sentenced to death. The sentence was changed to perpetual exile only through the instrumentality of Queen Victoria. In 1859 he went to Italy where he fought beside Giuseppe Garibaldi against Austria. He became Garibaldi's galloper and he played a significant role in the annexation of Naples to Italy. He obtained marshalship.

In 1861 he married Bonaparte Wyse Adel, the niece of Napoleon III, and with her help he also carried out an extensive diplomatic activity.

After the compromise between Austria and Hungary in 1867 he returned home from the exile. He became interested in the irrigation of lands and building canals to help to transport the products to the market. In 1868-69 he examined the situation of the Francis canal with Italian, French, Dutch and German engineers and had a detailed plan made. The government supported this plan with concessions. They assigned the Francis canal to István Türr for 75 years with all its equipment and ensured him exemption from taxes for 20 years. On 5th May 1872 the king shipped along the reconstructed Francis canal already.

He established a company in Paris for the reconstruction of a canal between Colón and Panama. In 1879, from 30 plans an international committee chose the one submitted by István Türr and Lucien Wyse, his brother-in-law. In 1903 the United States of America took over the canal construction and they founded the state of Panama.

From 1869 István Türr was engaged in the plan of the construction of the Corinth canal. In 1881 he obtained a license for the construction and operation of the canal for 99 years. He had a Hungarian engineer, Béla Gerster make the plans. The company established for the construction of the canal became insolvent in 1890; a Greek company took over the rights of the company, and the canal was opened in 1893.

István Türr was considered in his old age as a prominent personality of the international peace movement.