Christopher Colles, an American engineer, born in Ireland about 1738, died in New York in 1821. He was educated under the care of Kichard Pococke, the oriental traveller, after whose death he emigrated to America, and in 1773 delivered lectures in New York upon inland lock navigation. He was the designer of one of the first steam engines built in the country. In 1774 he submitted proposals for the construction of a reservoir for the supply of the city of New York with water. Afterward he gave instruction to the artillery of the United States upon the use of projectiles, until the arrival of Baron Steuben in 1777, when a change was made in the organization of the department. In November, 1784, he presented a memorial to the New York assembly recommending that Lake Ontario should be connected with the Hudson by means of canals and other improvements. He surveyed the obstructions in the Mohawk river, and the results of the survey were published in 1785. He also published an elaborate pamphlet in regard to inland navigation. The revolution having prevented the construction of the reservoir which he had projected, he offered to undertake the supply of New York from outside of the city by means of pipes, and was probably the first person who drew attention to the subject.

He personally explored the roads of the state of New York and published a book describing them. He exhibited much ingenuity in a great variety of employments, but was always poor. At length he was appointed superintendent of the academy of fine arts in New York. He was the friend of Hamilton, Jefferson, and other eminent men, and was honored as the original suggester of the canal system of New York.