Türr, Istvan (Stephen, Etienne)

Türr, Istvan (Stephen, Etienne)
SUBJECT AREA: Canals, Civil engineering
b. 10 August 1825 Baja, Hungary
d. 3 May 1908 Budapest, Hungary
Hungarian army officer and canal entrepreneur.
He entered the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Army in 1842 and, as a lieutenant, fought against the Piedmontese in 1848. In January 1849 he deserted to the Piedmontese and tried to form a Hungarian legion against Austria. Defeated at Novara he fled to London and intrigued with Kossuth and Pulszky against Austria. In 1852 he was Kossuth's agent in Italy and was involved with Mazzini in the Milan rising of 1853. He was expelled from Italy and joined the Turkish army as a volunteer until 1854. The Crimean War saw him as a British agent procuring horses in the Balkans for the British forces, but he was caught by the Austrians and sentenced to death as a deserter. Through English intervention the sentence was commuted to banishment. He was ill until 1859, but then returned to Genoa and offered his services to Garibaldi, becoming his Aide-de-Camp in the invasion of Sicily in 1860. On the unification of Italy he joined the regular Italian army as a general, and from 1870 was Honorary Aide-de-Camp to King Victor Emanuel II.
From then on he was more interested in peaceful projects. Jointly with Lucien Wyse, he obtained a concession in 1875 from the Columbian government to build a canal across Panama and formed the Société Civile Internationale du Canal Interocéanique du Darien. In 1879 he sold the concession to de Lesseps, and with the money negotiated a concession from King George of Greece for building the Corinth Canal. A French company undertook the work in April 1882, but financial problems led to the collapse of the company in 1889, at the same time as de Lesseps's financial storm. A Greek company then took over and completed the canal in 1893.
The canal was formally opened on 6 August 1893 by King George on his royal yacht; the king paid tribute to General Turr, who was accompanying him, saying that he had completed the work the Romans had begun. The general's later years were devoted to peace propaganda and he attended every peace conference held during those years.

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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