Lesseps, Ferdinand Marie, Vicomte de
(1805—1894) French diplomat
French diplomat. While in the consular service in Egypt he became aware of plans to link the Mediterranean and the Red Sea by means of a canal, and from 1854 onwards devoted himself to the project. Work began in 1859 and the Suez Canal was opened ten years later. In 1881 he embarked on the building of the Panama Canal, but had not anticipated the difficulties of this very different enterprise; the project was abandoned in 1889. The canal was not opened until 1914, after completion by US engineers.