The Smithsonian in Panama

The Republic of Panama and the Smithsonian maintain close ties through the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). STRI's origins date from the construction of the canal and the scientific interest in controlling insect-borne diseases such as yellow fever and malaria.

Today, STRI scientists conduct research on tropical organisms and their role in global biology. STRI trains students in tropical science and actively furthers public awareness of the value of tropical species and the need for conservation.

The Smithsonian Libraries' branch at STRI - one of the world's most comprehensive resources for tropical biology and conservation - offers over 60,000 volumes, 500 journals, and access to many electronic resources. Library staff support scientific research, Central and South American students' projects, and an active publication exchange program.

  • From the Atlantic Ocean the Panama Canal runs south for ten miles (17 km) and then eastward to the Pacific Ocean.
  • When the French abandoned the project they had spent over twenty years and $260,000,000.
  • A train of flat cars needed to carry all the excavated material from the canal would circle the earth four times at the equator.
  • The total soil excavated from the canal would build a pyramid 4,200 feet (1,280 meters) high.
  • During the construction engineers working on the project earned from $225 to $600 per month. Physicians earned from $150 to $300.
  • The project consumed as much as twelve million pounds of dynamite per year.
  • Gatun Lake, the highest part of the canal, is about 85 feet (26 meters) above sea level.
  • At the height of construction 9,000 workers were busy excavating Culebra Cut.
  • The Commissary Department provided food for the entire work force and baked as many as six million loaves of bread, 650,000 rolls, and 114,000 pounds of cake per year.
  • It took nine hours and forty minutes for the passage of the first ship through the canal.
  • When the canal opened tolls were set at $1.20 per ton for freight and $1.50 per ton for passengers. A freighter carrying a cargo of 4,500 tons paid a toll of $5,400.
  • When the Panama Canal opened to traffic, the United States had spent $352 million.