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British Industrial History

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Philippe Bunau-Varilla

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Philippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla was a French engineer and soldier.

Born on July 26, 1859, in Paris. After graduating from the École Polytechnique, he remained in France for three years. In 1882 he abandoned his career in public works at the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées and travelled to Panama in 1884, employed with Ferdinand de Lesseps's Panama Canal Company. He became general manager of the organization.

With the assistance of American lobbyist and lawyer William Nelson Cromwell, Bunau-Varilla greatly influenced the Washington's decision concerning the construction site for the Panama Canal. He also worked closely with President Theodore Roosevelt in the USA's orchestration of the Panamanian Revolution.

Bunau-Varilla remained active as an engineer and financial writer. In World War I he served as an officer in the French army and lost a leg at the Battle of Verdun. In 1938 he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Legion d'Honneur. He died in Paris on May 18, 1940.

See Wikipedia entry.

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