World History 1904

About the history of the world in 1904, Japan attacks Russia, the first subway in New York.

TWO CENTURIES OF WORLD HISTORY: 1778-1978

1904

* Col. William C. Gorgas, 50, was made chief sanitary officer in the construction of the Panama Canal. His success in eradicating yellow fever and reducing the incidence of malaria guaranteed American success in a project in which the French had failed a short time earlier. In 1905 Gorgas launched a full-scale attack on the yellow fever-carrying mosquito. He took the fight to its breeding grounds, banning unnecessary water containers, screening water barrels, and laying down oil slicks on ponds, cisterns, and cesspools. Inspectors tracked down larvae in a house-to-house search. Every dwelling in Panama City and Colon was fumigated. Certain that the mosquito could not act as a carrier without first feasting on the blood of a yellow fever victim, Gorgas sought out and isolated all known victims in specially constructed portable cages. In 1906 the last person died from yellow fever there, and the disease has never revisited the region since. Although Gorgas was less successful in his campaign against malaria, he did manage to reduce its incidence. Thus freed from the scourge of these twin killers, Col. George W. Goethals of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers got down to the business of connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. For the next eight years, a crew of as many as 43,000 laborers scooped out over 200 million cu. yd. of earth. Running across the isthmus from Limon Bay at Colon on the Atlantic to the Bay of Panama at Balboa on the Pacific, the $380 million canal opened to traffic in 1920.

* Unable to persuade Russia to leave Korea to Japanese domination, Japan, without declaring war, launched a sneak attack on the Russian Pacific Fleet at its home base at Port Arthur, China--a performance it would repeat against another power 37 years later at Pearl Harbor. The Russo-Japanese War ensued. With its fleet trapped in Port Arthur, Russia tried to win the war on land but was checked by highly motivated Japanese troops. At the Battle of Sha Ho, fighting ground to a draw and both sides, exhausted, dug into position, where they remained for over four months behind barbed wire. This was one of the early uses of modern trench warfare. On Jan. 2, 1905, the Japanese navy finally took Port Arthur, and later it destroyed Russia's Baltic Fleet as it tried to run Tsushima Strait in a last-minute attempt to reach Vladivostok. But the war was expensive for tiny Japan, so from a position of obvious strength, Tokyo appealed to Pres. Theodore Roosevelt to mediate a settlement. Thus, the belligerents sat down to a conference table in Portsmouth, N.H., on Sept. 5, 1905. The resulting treaty made Japan a world power and spurred it on to further imperialist adventures. Russia was forced to cede Port Arthur along with the rest of the Liaotung Peninsula and the southern half of Sakhalin Island, to evacuate Manchuria, to recognize a Japanese protectorate over Korea, and to grant Japanese fishing rights north of Vladivostok.

Sept. 28 A woman was arrested in New York City for smoking a cigarette in public.

Oct. 27 The first rapid transit subway, the Inter-borough running beneath Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge to 145th Street, opened to the public.

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