Benjamin Wright

Benjamin Wright

Infobox Engineer

image_width = 150px
caption = PAGENAME
nationality = United States
birth_date = October 10, 1770
birth_place = Wethersfield, Connecticut
death_date = August 24, 1842
death_place =
education =
spouse =
parents =
children =
discipline =
institutions =
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significant_projects = Erie Canal Chesapeake and Ohio Canal
significant_design =
significant_advance =
significant_awards =

Benjamin Wright (October 10, 1770August 24, 1842) was a noted American civil engineer who served as Chief Engineer of both the Erie Canal and Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. In 1969 he was declared the "Father of American Civil Engineering" by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Wright was born in Wethersfield, Connecticut to Ebenezer Wright and Grace Butler. In 1789, at age 19, he moved with his family to Rome, New York where he became a surveyor. In 1794, at age 24, he was hired as a surveyor and planner by the famed English canal designer William Weston. Working for Weston, he helped lay out canals and locks on the Mohawk River. After Weston returned to England in 1790, Wright was commissioned to survey the Mohawk River between Schenectady and Rome, New York, and then from Rome to the Hudson River.

In 1816 funding for the Erie Canal was in place, and in 1817, Wright was named Chief Engineer. In this position he led thousands of unskilled laborers as they built the canal with the aid of wheelbarrows, hand tools, horses, and mules. In Wright's honor, the first boat to traverse the canal system was named the "Chief Engineer".

After completion of the Erie Canal, he was approached by the Wurts brothers of Philadelphia to survey a posible route from the coalfields of Northeastern Pennsylvania to the Hudson, where anthracite could be shipped by boat downriver to New York City. This became the Delaware and Hudson Canal, and remained in operation until 1898.

When that canal was finished in 1828, Wright was made Chief Engineer of the newly organized Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. Within a year, Wright had let contracts for a massive construction effort that encompassed about 6,000 men and 700 horses.

In addition to his engineering work, Wright was also elected to the New York State Legislature (1794), and appointed a New York county judge. He married Philomela Waterman on September 27, 1798, with whom he had nine children (five of whom became civil engineers). Wright is buried in the New York Marble Cemetery, Manhattan.

ee also

* List of civil engineers


* Richard G. Weingardt, "Engineering Legends: Great American Civil Engineers: 32 Profiles Of Inspiration And Achievement", pp. 4-6, ASCE Publications, 2005. ISBN 0784408017.
* Robert J. Kapsch, "American Canals as a Source of Revitalization", in "The millennium link: the rehabilitation of the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals", ed. G. Fleming, pp. 48-51, Thomas Telford, 2000. ISBN 0727729454.

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