Gustave Eiffel is known best for the tower that bears his name.
During his long life, he created many other impressive metal
structures, especially bridges. He also created an aerodynamics
laboratory, which he gave to the French government two years
before his death.
Eiffel was born in
Dijon, France, in 1832. He became interested in the techniques
and problems of construction at an early age, and studied at
the Ecole Polytechnique and the Ecole Centrale des Arts et
Manufactures in Paris, where he graduated in 1855.
His first professional
project was to build a railway bridge to span the Garonne River
in Bordeaux. He designed and constructed numerous other bridges
over the next few decades, including a 525-foot steel arch
bridge in Oporto, Portugal, and a 540-foot version of the same
design in Truyere, France.
This was at the time the highest bridge in the world,
crossing 400 feet over the stream. He pioneered the use of compressed air in the caissons
(floating supports) of his bridges.
In 1867 Eiffel showed his love of tall, arched structures
with his creation of the Galerie des Machines for the Paris Exhibition. He also created a movable
dome for an astronomical observatory in Nice, France, and constructed the framework for the Statue
of Liberty. Then, in 1889, the committee set up to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the
French Revolution in 1889 announced a contest to design and build a monument to the revolution.
Eiffeldesigned the winning entry.
Tower, as it was called,
stunned the world. Some called Eiffel the "magician of iron"
for his feat of creating the world's tallest structure in
All twelve thousand of
the components of the tower were made in factories, fitted
together with two and a half million rivets, and designed to
resist wind pressure. Eiffel also included two elevators in the
When it was first built, however, the Eiffel
Tower was criticized by many as ugly, oversized, and
It dominated the
landscape of Paris, a symbol of modern technology and
construction techniques. Only years later did the tower
gradually come to be recognized as a beautiful work of
art. Eiffel himself found
immediate use for the structure, which soon became a major
He dropped objects off the tower via a wire slipway, and
measured how fast they were going when they hit the ground. These experiments in aerodynamics
led Gustave Eiffel to construct a laboratory for the study of aerodynamics in Paris in 1908; it
was the first such laboratory in the world. Four years later, he opened a new laboratory that
featured higher wind speeds in the wind tunnel.
Eiffel wrote of his work in aerodynamics in several books,
which were published between 1907 and 1919. His advances included data on airplane models,
airfoils, and a theory of the flight of objects heavier than air. He took airplane design and
showed how it could be reduced to engineering terms. He also showed how wind tunnels could be used
to simulate actual flight conditions, allowing for the testing of new airplane designs without
risking pilots' lives. His most influential book was Resistance of the Air and Aviation, which was
translated into English in 1913. He died in 1923, after presenting his aerodynamics laboratory at
Auteuil to the government of France.
Eiffel Tower Architect - Gustave
The Eiffel Tower by Gustave Eiffel