Ferdinand de Leseps, French diplomat and engineer, 1869.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Caricature of Viscount Ferdinand de Leseps (1805-1894). While in the consular service in Egypt, he conceived the idea of a canal through the Isthmus of Suez, connecting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. In 1854 he obtained the concesion for constructing a waterway from Said Pasha, viceroy of Egypt. De Leseps supervised the construction from 1859 to 1869, and became world-famous when the canal was succesful. It has no locks and can fit all but the largest ships. His venture to build the Panama Canal, however, ended due to financial problems and charges of corruption. A canal was not built between the Pacific and the Caribbean until after his death. It opened in 1914. From 'Men of the Day', in the magazine 'Vanity Fair'.