Goethals, George Washington

Goethals, George Washington

(gō`thəlz), 1858–1928, U.S. army engineer, b. Brooklyn, N.Y., grad. West Point, 1880. After serving on various inland water projects, he was appointed chief engineer of the Panama Canal when John F. Stevens resigned (1907). Goethals found the difficulty of the work increased by the climate, yellow fever, labor troubles, unexpected complications in building the locks, and crumbling substrata in the Culebra Cut. By taking intense personal interest in the men and expressing satisfaction in their individual achievements, he created an atmosphere of cooperation and completed the project ahead of schedule. He was governor of the Panama Canal Zone (1914–16). In World War I he was briefly (1917) general manager of the Emergency Fleet Corporation, then (Jan.–Apr., 1918) head of the Bureau of Purchase and Supplies, and finally assistant chief of staff in charge of supplies.
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Goethals, George Washington

(1858–1928) engineer, soldier; born in Brooklyn, N.Y. A West Point graduate (1880), he worked with the Corps of Engineers on various harbor, canal, and river projects. In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt gave him full responsibility for every aspect of constructing the Panama Canal. Facing immense engineering and personal problems—he supervised some 30,000 workers—he completed the job six months ahead of schedule in 1914. He remained as governor of the Canal Zone until 1916, when he retired from the army. He was recalled in 1917 to serve as quartermaster general of the U.S. Army. Retiring again in 1919, he headed an engineering firm until his death from cancer.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.