|Born||October 10, 1770
|Died||August 24, 1842|
|Significant projects||Erie Canal
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal
Benjamin Hall Wright (October 10, 1770 – August 24, 1842) was an 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 possible 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 in Manhattan.
- Moncure Robinson, Jonathan Knight, Benjamin Hall Wright (1835) Report of M. Robinson ... Jonathan Knight ... and Benjamin Wright ... Civil Engineers, upon the plan of the New-York and Erie Rail Road. Scott & Company, 1835
- Benjamin Hall Wright (1843) Report of the Survey of the Route of the New-York and Erie Railroad ... Together with the Report of a Special Committee of the Common Council of the City of New-York, in relation thereto. Office of the Railroad Journal.
- Benjamin Hall Wright (1870) Origin of the Erie Canal: Services of Benjamin Wright. Sandford & Carr
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Benjamin Wright.|
- Kapsch, Robert J. (2000). "American Canals as a Source of Revitalization". The millennium link: the rehabilitation of the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals. London: Thomas Telford. pp. 48–51.
- Weingardt, Richard G. (2005). Engineering Legends: Great American Civil Engineers: 32 Profiles Of Inspiration And Achievement. Reston: ASCE Publications. pp. 4–9. ISBN 0-7844-0801-7. Retrieved October 7, 2011.
- Shaughnessy, Jim (1997). Delaware & Hudson: The History of an Important Railroad Whose Antecedent Was A Canal Network to Transport Coal. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press. p. 1. ISBN 0-8156-0455-6. Retrieved October 7, 2011.
- "Benjamin Wright Gravesite". ASCE Metropolitan Section. Retrieved October 7, 2011.