Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck, 1815 - 1898

portrait of Otto von Bismarck
Portrait by Jacques Pilartz, 31 August 1890
Otto von Bismarck signature

Born: 1 April 1815, Sch
Died: 30 July 1898, Friedrichsruh, Schleswig-Holstein, German Empire

Bismarck was born into the aristocratic class known as Junker, his father had a military background and his mother was the educated daughter of a politician. From 1832 he studied law the University of Göttingen where he excelled only at beer drinking and dueling, then transferred to the University of Berlin. He briefly pursued both military and legal careers but bridled at authority and soon was back on the family estate reading. After pursuing a number of women, chiefly English (Bismarck was fluent in English, French, and Russian), he married Johanna von Puttkamer in 1847; they were together until her death in 1894. He entered politics in 1847 and his extremely conservative positions alienated many but his support of the king earned him a seat in the Diet, the parliament of the German federation. By his political understanding and ability to manipulate King Wilhelm (later Kaiser, with Bismarck's help), he drove Austria out of the federation, wrested Schleswig-Holstein from Danish control, and created the German nation out of Prussia and 17 smaller kingdoms, earning him the sobriquet Founder of Germany. He developed the single currency, a single legal code, and the first social security programs. He got a health insurance bill through the Reichstag in 1883, workers compensation the next year, and the first government-sponsored pension and disability program in 1889. When Kaiser Wilhelm died in 1888 he was replaced by his son Friedrich III, when Friedrich died three months later, his son became Wilhelm II, whom Bismarck was not able to manage. He retired in 1890 to write his memoirs.

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