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New York Marble Cemetery
Benjamin Wright, considered the "Father of American Civil Engineering" by ASCE, is buried in New York Marble Cemetery in Manhattan.
Benjamin Wright is considered the "Father of American Civil Engineering" by ASCE and is most known for his role as the chief engineer of the Erie Canal, a project that essentially served as the first "engineering school" for civil engineers in America. The 1825 opening of the 365-mile (587 km) long canal sparked the rapid growth of New York City, making it the busiest seaport and largest city in the United States, and its construction helped to train many of the nation's first civil engineers that later went on to design other canals and railroads across the country.

Born in Wethersfield, Connecticut on October 10, 1770, Benjamin Wright was a self-taught civil engineer, having only received a childhood education in mathematics, surveying, and the law. Following the Revolutionary War, his family moved to Rome, New York, where he began his career surveying the land surrounding Oneida Lake. At the age of 24, Wright was hired as an assistant to the British engineer William Weston and helped make surveys for canals along the Mohawk River. Before New York State obtained all of the funding necessary to construct a canal from the Hudson River to Lake Erie, Wright also served several terms as an assemblyman in the New York State Legislature and was elected as a county judge. He married Philomena Waterman in 1798 and they had nine children, five of which followed in the footsteps of the "Father of American Civil Engineering" and also went on to become civil engineers.

Nearly all of America's first civil engineers received their training by working on the construction of the Erie Canal, and many of the men that worked under Wright referred to him as their "professor." America's first engineering school was the United States Military Academy at West Point, where Superintendant Colonel Sylvanus Thayer began making civil engineering a foundation of the curriculum between 1817 and 1833. In 1835, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy (near the beginning of the Erie Canal) became the first school in the United States to offer a degree in civil engineering. Some of America's early civil engineers that received their training on the construction of the Erie Canal include Horatio Allen, David Bates, Charles Ellet, James Geddes, John B. Jervis, Samuel H. Kneass, Nathan S. Roberts, William M. Roberts, and Canvass White.

Erie Canal
Some sections of the original Erie Canal and its towpaths have been preserved as parks. They were abandoned in 1918 after the opening of the larger New York State Barge Canal.

Following his work on the Erie Canal, Benjamin Wright worked as a chief engineer or consulting engineer of many canals and railroads constructed in the United States including the Blackwater Canal, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, Delaware and Hudson Canal, James River and Kanawha Canal, Illinois-Michigan Canal, New York and Erie Railroad, Saint Lawrence Ship Canal, Tioga and Chemung Railroad, and Welland Canal. He also served as the chief engineer and street commissioner of New York City towards the end of his career.

After retiring, Wright chaired a committee that looked into the possibility of creating a national society for civil engineers in the United States. The committee's work generated interested among other engineers and started discussions that eventually led to ASCE's founding in New York City in 1852.

Benjamin Wright died in New York City on August 24, 1842 and is buried in the New York Marble Cemetery, New York City's oldest nonsectarian cemetery (not to be confused with the nearby New York City Marble Cemetery). New York Marble Cemetery is located at 41 ½ Second Avenue (between East 2nd Street and East 3rd Street) in Manhattan's East Village and is only open to visitors a few days during the year. The cemetery is a New York City Landmark and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.