Ferdinand de Lesseps

Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps, a French diplomat, was born Nov. 19, 1805.  De Lesseps was deeply involved in two French canal efforts.  The first was the Suez Canal project.  De Lesseps had no training in engineering, but he knew how to make friends with people in power,...

William Gorgas

William Crawford Gorgas, an American Army physician, was born Oct. 3, 1854. Gorgas was chief sanitary officer in Havana when the Army sent in a commission to investigate the cause and prevention of yellow fever. The head of the commission was Maj. Walter Reed, who,...

Philippe Bunau-Varilla

Philippe Bunau-Varilla, a French engineer, was born July 26, 1859. Bunau-Varilla joined the French Panama Canal Project in 1884 and rapidly rose through the engineering ranks, becoming Director General within a year. He is pictured above with…

John Lloyd Stephens

John Lloyd Stephens, an American explorer and railway builder, was born Nov. 28, 1805. In 1839, Stephens went to Central America with artist and architect Frederick Catherwood to investigate rumors of ancient ruins. They went first to Copán, then to Palenque and three dozen more sites. They found ruins in abundance. Catherwood recorded the glyphs and carvings as accurately as if he had a camera…