Engineers, kings, and businessmen had dreamed since the sixteenth century of constructing a canal through the Central American isthmus to link the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Such a canal would save approximately 18,000 miles of sailing and eliminate the need for an arduous and risky passage through the Strait of Magellan at the southern tip of South America. MIT alumnus John Ripley Freeman (S.B. in civil engineering, 1876) was part of a delegation sent by President Theodore Roosevelt to examine progress on the Panama Canal.
Freeman’s records from the Panama trip include images of the people and machines engaged in the work, and the effect on the indigenous population and land. John Ripley Freeman’s papers in the Institute Archives and Special Collections (MC 51) also document his extensive work in the United States and around the world.
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