Was the civil engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel who built the Eiffel Tower, a symbol of France around the world ? Discover the history of Gustave Eiffel and the famous Iron Lady.
First Name: Gustave
Last Name: Eiffel
Birthdate: December 15, 1832
Birthplace: Dijon, France
Date of death: December 27, 1923
Most famous buildings and structures : Eiffel Tower, Garabit Viaduct, Statue of Liberty steel framework
It was during the 1870s and 80s that the Eiffel Company reached its pinnacle and was solicited around the world. Eiffel’s works became increasingly complex and were achieved with brio; for example, New York’s Statue of Liberty for which Eiffel designed the entire steel framework to support the weight of Bartholdi’s sculpture.
The Statue of Liberty
Also associated with Eiffel is of course his most famous work : the Eiffel Tower. The construction began on January, 28th 1887 and it was completed on March, 15th 1889. Know as the Iron Lady, it is now a worldwide symbol of France. Despite virulent critiques and the planned destruction of the tower twenty years after its construction, the success was immediate. It is the most visited and loved landmark in Paris.
The Eiffel Tower : nice, isn't it ?
Gustave Eiffel was born in Dijon on December, 15th 1832 and attended the Central Paris School of Arts and Manufacturing to study chemistry. Diploma in hand, he got into metallurgy and thanks to his mother’s circle of friends, was able to find work. He ended up being hired by Charles Nepveu, an engineer specialized in the construction of steam-powered machines who also made material used for railways. One year later, in 1857, Eiffel became Bureau Chief at Pauwels and Cie.
At only 25 years old, his first large-scale project was construction of the iron girder bridge, Pont de Bordeaux, that measured more than 500 meters (1,600 feet) in length.
Eiffel’s First Masterpiece: the Bordeaux Bridge
From then on, Eiffel would be in charge of the construction of other bridges in the southwestern France. He set up home near Paris in 1866 and in 1867 started his own company. During the Industrial Revolution, Eiffel would go on to complete numerous buildings that would cement his reputation in France and abroad. He perfected technical innovations, most notably the assemblage of cantilever constructions.
If Gustave built the Eiffel Tower, he was also passionate about science and conducted meteorological and aeronautical experiments. Known more for his engineering than scientific skills, Eiffel nonetheless incorporated the latter into his engineering works. For example, in 1909 he built an aerodynamic wind tunnel on the Champ-de-Mars that would be moved in 1911 to the 16th district in order to have a larger research laboratory space.
1860 : Eiffel got married to Marie Gaudelet.
1863 : Claire Eiffel, his first daughter, was born. Two other daughters (Valentine and Laure) and two other sons (Edouard and Albert) will follow.
1877 : His wife and mother, Catherine Eiffel, died.
In Paris, on December, 27th 1923, Gustave Eiffel was listening to Bethoven's 5th symphony when he died from a cerebral hemorrhage.