Best of Switzerland: why don't the Swiss take more pride in their creative over-achievers? And whom would they honour if they did? A new poll reveals their choices for future national tribute.

AuteurShepard, Lyn

Foreigners here often wonder why the Swiss pay only grudging respect to their greatest thinkers and doers.

Now a poll focusing on conservative eastern Switzerland has asked whom adults judge worthy of "hall of fame" honours if such a museum were to exist.

Those conducting the poll say interim results show a surprising candidate has taken a commanding lead--the founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Henri Dunant.

Following Dunant come playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt, educator Heinrich Pestalozzi, and sculptor Alberto Giacometti. The only woman among the leaders, 'Heidi' author Johanna Spyri, is tied with Gen. Henri Guisan for 12th place in the ongoing poll.

The survey asked respondents to check the names of 10 "favourites" from a list of 80 candidates--some still living. Those surveyed rate graphic artist Hans Erni their top choice among the "live" candidates, allowing him to tie with supermarket pioneer Gottlieb Duttwiler for 19th place. Aging actress Anne-Marie Blanc and architect Mario Botta share 21st place with the late cabaret artist Alfred Rasser and the 15th-century hermit and religious mystic Niklaus von der Flueh (also know as "Brother Klaus").

Other "live" finishers among the top 50 include: Nobel laureate Dr. Roll Zinkernagel (tied for 32nd), cabaret entertainer Emil Steinberger (tied for 38th), industrialist Nicolas Hayek (tied for 41st), and five clustered at 43rd place: Federal Councillor Christoph Blocher, fairytale teller Trudi Gerster, Bernese dialect band lead singer Polo Hofer, skier Bernhard Russi, and astronaut Claude Nicollier.

Best of the Best

Among the deceased Swiss rounding out the poll's "top 10" (behind Dunant, Durrenmatt, Pestalozzi, and Giacometti) are: (at number 5) illustrator Alois Carigiet, (6) novelist Jeremias Gotthelf, (7) painter Giovanni Segantini [technically an Italian immigrant who lived and painted in the Grisons for years], (8) painter Albert Anker, (9) novelist-playwright Max Frisch, and (10) architect LeCorbusier.

Poll organisers expressed surprise at the broad support for Dunant, the humanitarian who shared the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901. Interim results show him receiving roughly half of all votes cast.

"We rather expected somebody like Blocher to do much better in this traditional area," a group spokesman said. "We can't explain Dunant's popularity--especially, not in Canton Grisons, where much of our polling occurs."

Though Dunant founded the Red Cross movement in...

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