Lesseps, Ferdinand de

Lesseps, Ferdinand de
b. 19 November 1805 Versailles, France
d. 7 December 1894 La Chesnaye, near Paris, France
French diplomat and canal entrepreneur.
Ferdinand de Lesseps was born into a family in the diplomatic service and it was intended that his should be his career also. He was educated at the Lycée Napoléon in Paris. In 1825, aged 20, he was appointed an attaché to the French consulate in Lisbon. In 1828 he went to the Consulate-General in Tunis and in 1831 was posted from there to Egypt, becoming French Consul in Cairo two years later. For his work there during the plague in 1836 he was awarded the Croix de Chevalier in the Légion d'honneur. During this time he became very friendly with Said Mohammed and the friendship was maintained over the years, although there were no expectations then that Said would occupy any great position of authority.
De Lesseps then served in other countries. In 1841 he had thought about a canal from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, and he brooded over the idea until 1854. In October of that year, having retired from the diplomatic service, he returned to Egypt privately. His friend Said became Viceroy and he readily agreed to the proposal to cut the canal. At first there was great international opposition to the idea, and in 1855 de Lesseps travelled to England to try to raise capital. Work finally started in 1859, but there were further delays following the death of Said Pasha in 1863. The work was completed in 1869 and the canal was formally opened by the Empress Eugenic on 20 November 1869. De Lesseps was fêted in France and awarded the Grand Croix de la Légion d'honneur.
He subsequently promoted the project of the Corinth Canal, but his great ambition in his later years was to construct a canal across the Isthmus of Panama. This idea had been conceived by Spanish adventurers in 1514, but everyone felt the problems and cost would be too great. De Lesseps, riding high in popularity and with his charismatic character, convinced the public of the scheme's feasibility and was able to raise vast sums for the enterprise. He proposed a sea-level canal, which required the excavation of a 350 ft (107 m) cut through terrain; this eventually proved impossible, but work nevertheless started in 1881.
In 1882 de Lesseps became first President d'-Honneur of the Syndicat des Entrepreneurs de Travaux Publics de France and was elected to the Chair of the French Academy in 1884. By 1891 the Panama Canal was in a disastrous financial crisis: a new company was formed, and because of the vast sums expended a financial investigation was made. The report led to de Lesseps, his son and several high-ranking government ministers and officials being charged with bribery and corruption, but de Lesseps was a very sick man and never appeared at the trial. He was never convicted, although others were, and he died soon after, at the age of 89, at his home.
Principal Honours and Distinctions
Croix de Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur 1836; Grand Croix 1869.
Further Reading
John S.Pudney, 1968, Suez. De Lesseps' Canal, London: Dent.
John Marlowe, 1964, The Making of the Suez Canal, London: Cresset.

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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  • Lesseps, Ferdinand de — (1805–1894)    A French engineer and entrepreneur, born to a family of career diplomats, Lesseps was fascinated both by the culture of Egypt and by the patterns of commercial trade between East and West. It was after his retirement from the… …   Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914

  • Lesseps, Ferdinand, vicomte de — ▪ French diplomat in full  Ferdinand marie, Vicomte De Lesseps   born Nov. 19, 1805, Versailles, France died Dec. 7, 1894, La Chenaie, near Guilly  French diplomat famous for building the Suez Canal across the Isthmus of Suez (1859–69) in Egypt.… …   Universalium

  • Lesseps, Ferdinand-Marie, viscount de — (1805 1894)    diplomat, administrator    Born in Versailles, the son of a diplomat, Ferdinand Marie, viscount de Lesseps, entered the consular service in 1825 and held many diplomatic posts. While assistant vice consul in Cairo and Alexandria,… …   France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present

  • Lesseps, Ferdinand (-Marie), vizconde de — (19 nov. 1805, Versalles, Francia–7 dic. 1894, La Chenaie, cerca de Guilly). Diplomático francés, constructor del canal de Suez. Durante su carrera diplomática, cumplió funciones en Egipto y en otros países hasta 1849. En 1854 fue autorizado por… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Lesseps, Ferdinand (-Marie), viscount de — born Nov. 19, 1805, Versailles, France died Dec. 7, 1894, La Chenaie, near Guilly French diplomat, builder of the Suez Canal. A career diplomat, he held posts in Egypt and elsewhere until 1849. In 1854 he was authorized by the viceroy of Egypt to …   Universalium

  • Lesseps, Ferdinand Marie, Vicomte de —  (1805–1894) French engineer closely associated with the Suez Canal. On second reference, de Lesseps …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • Lesseps, Ferdinand de — ► (1805 94) Administrador y diplomático francés. Construyó el canal de Suez en 1869, entre el mar Mediterráneo y el Mar Rojo. A raíz de esta construcción, decidió repetir su obra con la constitución de la Compañía del Canal de Panamá …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • LESSEPS, FERDINAND DE —    French diplomatist, born at Versailles; conceived the scheme of connecting the Red Sea with the Mediterranean in 1854, and saw it finished as the Suez Canal in 1869; projected a similar scheme for a canal at Panama, but it ended in failure,… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

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  • Lesseps — Lesseps, Ferdinand de …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Ferdinand de Lesseps — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Ferdinand Marie, vizconde de Lesseps …   Wikipedia Español

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