Otto von Bismarck
Otto von Bismarck exemplified realpolitik as he cajoled, bribed, and lied his way to German unification. He built a powerful industrial, military state; yet he knew his goals and rejected a conquest of the European continent in favor of a strong empire within secure borders.
On April 1, 1815, Bismarck was born to Ferdinand von Bismarck and Wilhelmina Mencken at the Schönhaausen family manor in Brandenburg state. His father was a Brandenburg squire, and his mother came from a wealthy family. In 1816, Otto's parents moved to Kniephof, a family estate in Prussian Pomerania. At age seven, he went to Plamann's Institute, a preparatory school. In 1832, he entered the University of Gottingen and in 1834 transferred to the University of Berlin. He did not excel and contemplated a military career, but his mother influenced him to join the civil service.