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051 David McCullough: The Path Between the Seas

The story of the creation of the Panama Canal, the greatest engineering feat of its time, with high human and financial costs.

David McCullough: The Path Between the Seas


The book provides a detailed account of the decades-long effort to construct the Panama Canal, one of the greatest engineering feats in history. David McCullough explores the political, economic, and technical challenges faced by those involved in the project, from Frenchman Ferdinand de Lesseps to American leaders like Theodore Roosevelt. The story is one of incredible ambition and determination, as well as tragedy and sacrifice. The book also delves into the impact of the canal on global trade and politics, and the lasting legacy of this incredible achievement.


Title: The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914

Author: David McCullough

Publishing Year: 2011

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Length in hours: 31 hours and 36 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. The construction of the Panama Canal was one of the most ambitious engineering projects of its time, involving the labor of tens of thousands of workers over many years.
  2. The political and financial challenges faced by those involved in the project were immense, and many people lost their lives or fortunes in the effort.
  3. The canal transformed global trade and politics, making it easier for ships to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
  4. The construction of the canal was a testament to human ambition and determination, and remains an enduring symbol of human achievement.
  5. The legacy of the canal is still felt today, both in terms of its impact on global commerce and in the ongoing environmental and social issues related to its construction.
David McCullough: The Path Between the Seas

5 funny quotes

  1. "We cannot expect to have everything done for us. We must learn to do for ourselves."
  2. "An honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his fellow citizens."
  3. "There is no doubt that the presence of the Canal has made Panama an outstanding center of attraction for tourists and businessmen."
  4. "The Canal is not a ditch. It's a big enterprise, just like any other big business."
  5. "The Canal is the center of the world."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity."
  2. "As chief engineer, I was going to be the boss of everybody, and, on top of that, I was going to be the one who knew how to build the Canal. At least that's what I thought at the time."
  3. "But no one, not even one of the greatest engineers in American history, could build a sea-level canal through a country that rose from sea level to 1,200 feet and back again in just 50 miles."
  4. "The canal, a technological marvel, was considered one of the greatest engineering feats of the modern era."
  5. "The story of the Panama Canal is a story of human courage, perseverance, and innovation."

5 dilemmas

  1. Choosing the route for the canal: sea level or locks?
  2. The French vs. the Americans: different approaches, different outcomes.
  3. The impact of the canal on Panama and its people.
  4. The health risks for workers during the construction of the canal.
  5. The role of politics and diplomacy in the building of the canal.

5 examples

  1. Ferdinand de Lesseps
  2. Philippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla
  3. William Crawford Gorgas
  4. John Frank Stevens
  5. Theodore Roosevelt

Referenced books

  1. "The Building of the Panama Canal in Historic Photographs" by Ulrich Keller
  2. "The Canal Builders: Making America's Empire at the Panama Canal" by Julie Greene
  3. "The Roosevelt I Knew" by Frances Perkins
  4. "The Man Who Built the Sierra Club: A Life of David Brower" by Robert Wyss
  5. "The Panama Canal: The Crisis in Historical Perspective" by Walter LaFeber

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"In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity."

David McCullough: The Path Between the Seas
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