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Gustave Eiffel


Gustave Eiffel
Gustave Eiffel

Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (December 15, 1832 – December 27, 1923; French pronunciation in IPA, in English usually pronounced in the German manner) was a French engineer and architect and a specialist of metallic structures. He is famous for designing the Eiffel Tower, built 1887- 1889 for the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris, France, and the armature for the Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor, USA.

Early life

A monument to Gustave Eiffel at the base of the Eiffel Tower

A monument to Gustave Eiffel at the base of the Eiffel Tower

Eiffel was born in Dijon, Côte-d'Or, France. The name Eiffel was adopted by one of his German ancestors in the early 18th century. The name was taken from his birthplace Marmagen located in the Eifel, as the French could not pronounce his actual name, Bönickhausen. His mother’s coal business provided ample income for the family and provided the funds for Gustave to receive higher education at the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris, where he studied chemistry. Upon graduation, Gustave was to take over his uncle’s rubber cat-nip mouse factory. However, a family dispute over the quality of the rubber removed that opportunity, and Eiffel soon accepted entry-level employment with a company that designed railway bridges.

Charles Nepveu provided Eiffel with his first job as one of many project managers for a railway bridge located in France. During the construction process, fellow engineers on the project were steadily quitting, and Eiffel eventually took charge of the entire project. Nepveu saw the work that Eiffel performed on the site, and continued to place Eiffel in other jobs that involved project management of railway bridges and structures. During these projects, Eiffel got to know other engineers of the time, and he would be remembered for his work and allowed to work on other projects. Without the influence of Nepveu and the opportunity to ride on his coattails, Eiffel might not have been as successful as he became.


The Eiffel Tower at sunrise
Eiffel et Cie., Eiffel's consulting and construction firm, with the support of Belgian engineer Téophile Seyrig, participated in an international bid to design and build a 160-m long railway bridge over the Douro river, between Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal. His proposal was the winner because it was a beautiful, transparent, structure, it was the least expensive, and it incorporated the use of the method of forces, a then novel technique in structure design developed by Maxwell in 1864. The Ponte Maria Pia is a double-hinged arch that supports a single-line railway plate through pillars that reinforce the whole of the bridge. The construction proceeded rapidly and the bridge was built in less than two years (5 January 1876 to 4 November 1877). It was inaugurated by King D. Luís and Queen D. Maria Pia, after whom it was named. The bridge was in use until 1991 (114 years), when it was replaced by the S. John Bridge, designed by engineer Edgar Cardoso.[1][2]

Gustave Eiffel also designed La Ruche in Paris. This, like the Eiffel Tower, became a city landmark. It is a three-story circular structure that looks like a large beehive and was created as a temporary structure for use as a wine rotunda at the Great Exposition of 1900. He also constructed the Garabit viaduct, a railroad bridge near Ruynes en Margeride in the Cantal département. The only structure in the Americas designed by Eiffel is the lighthouse located on Mona Island, Puerto Rico. The lighthouse was built around 1900 by the United States which acquired the island after end of the Spanish-American War. It was decomissioned in 1976.[3]

In 1887, Eiffel became involved with the French effort to construct a Panama Canal. The French Panama Canal Company, led by Ferdinand de Lesseps, had been attempting to build a sea-level canal, but finally came to the realisation that this was impractical. An elevated, lock-based canal was chosen as the new design, and Eiffel was enlisted to design and build the locks. However, the whole canal project suffered from serious mismanagment, and finally collapsed with enormous losses. Eiffel's reputation suffered a severe setback when he was implicated in the financial scandals surrounding de Lesseps and the entrepreneurs backing the project. Eiffel himself had no connection with the finances, and his guilty judgment was later reversed.[4] However, his work was never realised, as the later American effort to build a canal used new lock designs (see History of the Panama Canal).

In his later years Eiffel began to study aerodynamics.

Eiffel died on December 27, 1923 in his mansion on Rue Rabelais in Paris. He was interred in the Cimetière de Levallois-Perret.


Edward Moran's 1886 painting, The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, depicts the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty.
The structures that Eiffel designed had great social, economical, and political impacts on the world. These structures included bridges, the Eiffel Tower, and the Statue of Liberty.

The bridges that he designed were constructed all over the world. The bridges allowed for easier and faster travel and trade in the geographical area in which they were constructed. Many of Eiffel's bridges did not require skilled workers for assembly, which made his bridges a great economical choice.

The Eiffel Tower had a huge impact on France. The tower was the focal point of the International Exposition in 1889 and drew millions of people to Paris. Nearly two million people visited the Eiffel Tower in 1889 alone. The tower quickly became a tourist attraction and brought large amounts of money into France's economy. After originally being thought of as an eyesore (it was actually designed to be torn down easily after the end of the Exposition), the tower quickly became a national symbol of France and brought a sense of pride to the people who live there.

The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France to the United States. Eiffel's design for the interior structural elements of the statue allowed for the statue to become a reality. The statue showed the friendship and respect that was shared between France and the United States. The Statue of Liberty quickly became a national symbol of freedom in the United States and gave citizens a sense of pride. The statue became a great tourist attraction and brought many people to New York, boosting their economy. Several Americans living in France were pleased by the gift to their country and in turn, built a 1/4 scale bronze model which stands approximatly 2km north of the Eiffel Tower.

Famous buildings
Eiffel Tower 
Statue of Liberty 
Nice Observatory 
Eiffel Market or Mercado Adolpho Lisboa 
San Sebastian Church, Manila, Philippines 

Famous Bridges
Porto Viaduct 
Garabit Viaduct 
Souleuvre Viaduct 

Other Works
viaduct over the Sioule river (1867) 
viaduct at Neuvial (1867) 
Notre Dame des Champs, Paris (1868) 
swing bridge at Dieppe (1870) 
gasworks of La Paz, Bolivia 
church at Tacna, Peru (1875) 
bridge over the Tisza near Szeged, Hungary