Goethals, George Washington (1858–1928)

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Goethals, George Washington (1858–1928)

George Washington Goethals (b. 29 June 1858; d. 21 January 1928), U.S. Army officer and engineer. After graduating from the United States Military Academy in 1880, Goethals studied engineering at Willetts Point, New York; taught for four years at West Point; and supervised improvement work on the Ohio and Tennessee rivers. He was chief of engineers with the First Army Corps during the Spanish-American War in 1898; supervised river and harbor works in New England from 1900 to 1903; and served on the U.S. Army's general staff from 1903 to 1907. Following the resignation of two civilian engineers, President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907 appointed Goethals chief of the army engineers supervising the construction of the Panama Canal. Goethals brought the project to completion in early 1914 after overcoming problems in engineering, supply, climate, disease, and living conditions. At that time President Woodrow Wilson appointed Goethals the first governor of the Canal Zone. During World War I, Goethals served as director of purchase, storage, and traffic for the War Department. He retired from the military after the war to establish his own engineering consulting firm.

See alsoPanama Canal .


George W. Goethals, ed., The Panama Canal: An Engineering Treatise, 2 vols. (1916).

Joseph B. Bishop, Goethals: Genius of the Panama Canal (1930).

David Mc Cullough, The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870–1914 (1977).

Additional Bibliography

Griffin, Walt. "George W. Goethals and the Panama Canal." Ph.D. diss., University of Cincinnati, 1988.

                                     Thomas M. Leonard