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Gustave Eiffel

civil engineer and architect

Alexandre Gustave Eiffel

Alexandre Gustave Eiffel was born in Dijon, France, on December 15, 1832. He graduated from the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in 1855, after which he spent several years in the South West of France supervising work on iron railway bridges.

Eiffel founded his own ironworks company in 1865, and soon gained a reputation for his unique designs and attention to detail. His most notable works include: the Douro River Bridge in Porto, Portugal, which was completed in 1876 and used until 1991; the Garabit Viaduct in southern France, completed in 1882; the movable observatory dome in Nice; the support framework for the Statue of Liberty; and the Eiffel Tower, designed for the 1889 Paris World's Fair.

the Douro River Bridge was used for 115 years
Douro River Bridge

Eiffel's design for the supporting framework of the Statue of Liberty
framework of the Statue of Liberty

In 1887, Eiffel agreed to design and build the locks for a French attempt to build a canal across the Isthmus of Panama. Unfortunately, the business of actually building the canal and locks was badly managed by Ferdinand De Lesseps, and the canal project ended in the biggest financial scandal of the century. On February 4, 1889, despite not being personally involved in any of the project's financial matters, Eiffel was found guilty of fraud and sentenced to two years in prison and fined 2,000 francs. Although the ruling was later annulled by the French Court of Appeal, the scandal all but ruined his appetite for business.

Unwilling to risk any more of his personal wealth on future building projects, Eiffel spent the rest of his life doing scientific research, much of it centered around his famous Tower, which he used in wind tunnel experiments, as a meteorological observation post, and as a giant aerial mast for radio broadcasting. Among his achievements was the introduction of the use of compressed air for sinking foundation caissons in bridge construction. Resistance of the Air, published in 1913, was based on his laboratory experiments in the field of aerodynamics.

Gustave Eiffel died at his Paris home on December 27, 1923.

See Also

Statue of Liberty
Eiffel Tower

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The Robinson Library >> Engineering (General)

This page was last updated on December 27, 2018.