ExpertiseStructural, Bridges, Water
Designed the iconic Eiffel tower
Built the Statue of Liberty
Master of material economy
Why you might have heard of me
Gustave Eiffel was the ‘magician of iron’ responsible for some of the most iconic metallic structures in the world – the Parisian tower that bears his own name and the Statue of Liberty counted among these.
The civil engineer and architect mastered structural metallic work. He was also one of the first engineers to employ compressed-air caissons (or watertight retaining structures that enable underwater work) in bridge building.
Eiffel developed methods to ship prefabricated and dismantled structures around the globe, which saw his structures built in countries such as the United States, Spain, Brazil, Uruguay, Peru, Mexico, and Chile. This is how the Statue of Liberty was shipped and then built in New York City, USA.
Eiffel also created marvels in terms of material economy. His greatest achievement, the Eiffel tower, is made up of 12,000 different components and 2,500,000 rivets, all structured to withstand wind pressure.
If melted down, the tower’s metal would only fill up its base about two and a half inches deep.
Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel was born on December 15, 1832 in Dijon, France. He was the eldest child of François Alexandre Boenickhausen dit Eiffel and Catherine Melanie Moineuse.
Gustave’s family came from a region near the Eifel Mountains and adopted the surname ‘Eiffel’.
His father was ex-military and served the French army as an administrator. His mother worked in her family’s charcoal business, which Eiffel’s father eventually joined. Since his parents were busy with the business, Eiffel spent a lot of his childhood with his grandmother.
In 1862, he married Marie Gaudelet. They were married for 15 years and had five children together: Albert, Claire, Edouard, Laure and Valentine. Marie caught pneumonia and passed away in 1887. Eiffel never remarried.
On December 27, 1923, at the age of 91, Gustave Eiffel died in his mansion on ‘Rue Rabelais’ in Paris. He was buried in the family tomb at the Levallois-Perret cemetery.
Profile image:Wikimedia Commons
Banner image: Anthony Delanoix/Unsplash
- Building the Eiffel Tower directed Gustave Eiffel’s interest in the direction of aerodynamics, and he used the structure for several experiments. His work at the tower influenced some of the first aviators, including the Wright Brothers.
- Eiffel wrote several books on aerodynamics, most notably Resistance of the Air and Aviation, first published in 1907.
- Eiffel turned his interest to meteorology in his final years, studying the subject at length before his death in 1923.
- He made a mark of his excellence in other countries including the United States, Spain, Brazil, Uruguay, Peru, Mexico and Chile among others.
- In 1913, the ‘Smithsonian Institution’ honoured him with the Samuel P. Langley Medal for Aerodromics award.
- He was an Officer of the Legion of Honour in France and knight and commander of many foreign forces that honoured him and his work.
- The Eiffel Tower in Paris.
- The Statue of Liberty in New York City.
- The twin viaducts in Porto, Portugal, and Garabit, from the Cantal region of France.
- The dome on the Nice observatory.
- The Bordeaux railway bridge.
- The Iron Palace of Orizaba, in Veracruz, Mexico.
- The cathedral of San Pedro de Tacna in Tacna, Peru.
- The Grand Hotel Traian in Iaşi, Romania.
- Konak Pier in İzmir, Turkey.
- The cathedral of Santa María in Chiclayo, Peru.
Membership of societies
Eiffel was President of the French Society of Civil Engineers in 1889. The institution’s council nominated Eiffel an Honorary Life Member position at the institution.