||Alexandre Gustave Eiffel
was a famous French engineer best known for the Tower that bears his name.
Eiffel was born in 1832 and died in 1923. His family had German ancestors and they adopted the family name of Eiffel (which was that of their village of origin) as French people had trouble saying their real name which was "Bonnickhausen".
Gustave studied chemistry at university in Paris, but ended up working with a company that designed railway bridges. Because many of the senior engineers moved on to other companies, Eiffel soon found himself in charge of many of the projects building bridges, viaducts and other structures.
Eiffel soon founded his own construction company called Eiffel et Cie. He liked to work
with new technology, which in his time involved using wrought iron. He worked together with a Belgian engineer called Téophile Seyrig on the 160 metre long bridge over the River Douro in Portugal. The bridge cleverly combined road and rail bridges in one.
Bridge over the River Douro
| This construction was an important milestone for Eiffel because it explored new building techniques, showed that bridges could be built from relatively cheap materials and it was completed quickly in under two years.
Eiffel and his company soon became known as the experts in bridge building. His bridges did not require skilled workers to erect and were economic and safe.
Eiffel quickly became a well-known engineer who designed and completed many complex projects. He specialised in working in iron. Few people are aware of the variety of buildings that Eiffel and his company created.
Some of his constructions included viaducts across valleys and gorges, bridges, the department store of Bon Marché in Paris, a bridge in Vietnam, churches such as San Marcos in Chile, and Budapest railway station.
The Viaduct of Garabit - 1885
|The viaduct of Garabit, for example, spanned a gorge and a river. Its length of 564 metres was quite exceptional for such a construction.
In the 1870's America and France decided to create a special monument to celebrate the centenary of American independence in 1876. At that time, France had given considerable help towards the American colonists in their resistance against the British government. The Americans were to provide the pedestal and the French, the monument. The French sculptor Bartholdi had a grand vision of huge statue of a torch bearing woman who would represent Liberty.
Statue of Liberty
|The size of the statue created enormous problems in its construction. Eiffel was brought in to solve them because of his expertise in complex, giant size constructions. Eiffel designed the interior structures for the Statue of Liberty for the sculptor Bartholdi to work around. He constructed the iron scaffolding of the interior so that the sheets of copper could be attached to the gigantic framework.
The 1889 World Expo in Paris was held to
commemorate the centenary of the French Revolution in 1789. In 1884,
it was decided to hold a competition to design an attraction which would
bring more visitors to the World Expo. There were hundreds of entries,
some of which - like a giant guillotine -were rather unusual. Eiffel et Cie's
design of the Tower was the winning entry.
Construction of the Eiffel Tower
It took only about twenty-six months to
construct the Tower. At that time, the Eiffel Tower was the tallest
building in the world at 321 metres in height. (1051 feet) It
weighed 7 000 tonnes and two and half million rivets were used
in its construction.
Not a modern laser light show, but illuminations for the 1889 Exposition, considered very ahead in its time.
The Eiffel Tower was to become Gustave's signature building and the one that means France for most people in the world. It was also his favourite construction. He even had a sitting room built for himself in it, where he worked every day right up to the time he died. The photo on the right above, shows him (or at least a model of him!) in this room on the Tower.