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Philippe Jean Bunau-Varilla

Bunau-Varilla, Philippe Jean (fēlēpˈ zhäN bünōˈ-värēyäˈ) [key], 1859–1940, French engineer, prominent in the Panama Canal controversy. An engineer after 1884 in the original French company for building the canal, he was chief engineer before the company went bankrupt in 1889 and was the organizer (1894) of the new company that took over the rights of the old one. Unable to develop his plans in France, he undertook to sell the company to the United States, converting (1901) Mark Hanna and President McKinley, who had been interested in the Nicaragua route, to the Panama project. After new opposition developed, he persuaded the French directors to reduce the price of the company, and President Theodore Roosevelt was won over to the Panama plan. When difficulties arose with the Colombian government, Bunau-Varilla conspired with insurrectionists in Panama and touched off (1903) a successful revolution. As minister from the new Panamanian republic to the United States, he negotiated the Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty, which gave the United States control of the Panama Canal. In World War I a water chlorination process that he had developed was used at the battle of Verdun.

See his Panama (tr. 1913) and From Panama to Verdun (tr. 1940).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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