Often a genius is someone who just looks at a problem differently. Between 1905 and 1907, John Frank Stevens was the Chief Engineer on the Panama Canal. The problem? Sections of the canal were dug into jungle soil where there was no bedrock. When the so-called “Big Ditch” got too deep, the sides of the canal collapsed. Being a creative thinker, Stevens ‘saw a solution in the problem.’ Rather than continuing to dig down, he built up. Instead of continuing dig a ditch, he built a dam. He created Lake Gatun, using the waters of the Chagres River, the very river that had been eroding the sides of the Big Ditch. Stevens created a lake with 164 square miles – and the Panama Canal has been operational since it opened for business on August 15, 1914. And, for trivia enthusiasts, actually, this is not true. The actual date the Panama Canal was completed was October 11, 1913.
By a President of the United States 4,000 miles away.
On that date, Woodrow Wilson, touched a button on his desk in the White House and an electric impulse traveled for four seconds to the Gamboa Dike exploding eight tons of dynamite. And the waters from Lake Gatun flowed into the Culebra Cut and the sea-to-sea “Big Ditch” was complete.