Lesseps, Vicomte Ferdinand Marie de

Lesseps, Vicomte Ferdinand Marie de

 

Born Nov. 19, 1805, in Versailles; died Dec. 7, 1894, at La Chenaie, Indre Department. French diplomat and entrepreneur. Trained as a lawyer.

From 1825 to 1849, Lesseps held diplomatic posts in a number of European and African countries, including Egypt from 1831 to 1837. Using his personal connections at the Egyptian court, Lesseps in 1854 received a concession to build the Suez Canal from the ruler of Egypt, Said Pasha, and organized the General Company of the Suez Canal. From 1859 to 1869 he directed construction of the canal. From 1879 to 1889 he headed a jointstock company for digging the Panama Canal, which suffered a scandalous bankruptcy as a result of large-scale financial abuses. In 1893, Lesseps was sentenced by a Paris court to five years in prison, but the verdict was soon set aside.

In 1875, Lesseps became an honorary member of the Royal Society, and in 1884 he was elected to the French Academy.

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