Ferdinand Marie Vicomte de Lesseps (1805-1894), French civil engineer. De Lesseps spent his early career in the diplomatic service before retiring in 1854 to plan the Suez Canal, a waterway to connect the Mediterranean and Red Seas. Construction work began in April 1859 and de Lesseps oversaw the digging until its completion in November 1869. As a result, he received many honours. He then began work on the Panama Canal between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Work on the sea-level scheme began in 1881 but was stopped in 1888 amid financial, engineering and political problems. De Lesseps was later charged with embezzlement.