WPI founders Ken and Ruth Wright have long been interested in water use and handling by ancient people. Ken has been a water engineer for over 50 years and Ruth has been very active in environmental issues, formerly as a state legislator and currently through her participation on various boards.
When Ruth returned from a Peruvian archaeological trip in 1974, she described Machu Picchu to Ken and asked a simple question: “How did they get water up to this mountainous site?” Ken replied, “I’ll find out!” It took twenty years to get a government permit, but in 1994, the Wrights were granted permission to study the hydrology and hydraulics of Machu Picchu. In 1996, WPI was established to support their mission to study water use and handling by ancient people.
What the Wrights admire most about the Inca sites is the day-to-day activities of the Inca civil engineers as indicated by wealth of evidence. They planned and built for permanence and in an environmentally sustainable manner without a written language, without the wheel and without iron or steel. Somehow they built thousands of communities and temples up and down the Andes during a span of about 100 years. WPI’s Board of Directors hopes that studies of ancient Inca engineering, and the engineering of other ancient cultures, will continue for many years to come.