Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel was born in Dijon, France on the 5th of December in 1832. Interested in construction early in his life, Eiffel studied first at the École Polytechnique and then at the École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris. To set out on his career, he specialized in metal construction, particularly bridges, but then worked on other projects over the next decades, using mathematics to find ways to construct lighter and stronger structures.
During his entire career, he designed a lot of bridges (the first being completed in Bordeux in 1858), exhibition buildings and viaducts, while being concerned with innovative structures, especially with the effects that wind loading has on plane surfaces. To know more about Eiffel, here are interesting facts about him.
1. His Most Famous Bridge Is The Maria Pia.
The most famous bridge Eiffel has ever created is the Maria Pia, which is located in Oporto, Portugal. This bridge spans 500 feet with a single arch that is 200 feet above high-water level. Additional side pylons are supporting this horizontal super-structure.
2. He Was Encouraged By Maurice Koechlin In The Creation Of The Eiffel Tower.
Eiffel is the one who built the 1,625 feet long and 400 feet high Garabit viaduct over the Truyère in France, with associate engineer Maurice Koechlin. Now, it was the same co-engineer who encouraged Eiffel in designing the Paris exhibition tower of 1889, with the factory-made components that were fitted together on the viaduct’s site making the construction of the 984-foot-high tower possible. Each of the tower’s various components was designed to counteract wind pressures, with the more than 2 million pieces of rivets used to create a continuous structure. It has 4 main piers, with each having a slight curve and being incorporated with elevators with separate functions: 2 of them acting on a combined principle of chains and pistons, while the other 2 acting on a hydraulic piston system.
3. His Eiffel Tower’s Structural Features Change As a Reaction To Climatic Conditions.
Despite its height, the tower in Paris was designed to resist wind and to sway only a few inches in the wind. However, the structure moves further when its iron facing the sun heats and expands, moving the top up to 7 inches away from the sun.
4. He Is One Of The Makers Of The Bon Marché Department Store.
Collaborating with an architect, Eiffel constructed the Bon Marché Department Store in Paris, which is the first cast iron and glass modern department store in the world. It comprises a glass wall that runs along all of the store’s street facades, circular pavilions at its corners, and open courts that are covered by skylights that extends 30,000 square feet. The store building’s glazed roof, bridges and balconies have been supported by slender columns, and in the 1920s, a masonry skin was added to it.
5. He Became a Replacement Engineer For The Construction Of The Statue Of Liberty.
In 1879, the chief engineer of the construction of the Statue of Liberty died, and Eiffel was hired for replacement, who went on to design the structure’s metallic skeleton. He made a new support system for the structure that would depend on a skeletal system, rather than on weight to support the copper skin. With the help of his team, Eiffel then constructed the statue from the ground up and dismantled it to make its journey to New York. He was also associated Joseph Pulitzer, who assisted in raising the funds to construct the statue based upon Eiffel’s design.
6. He Was Interested In Aerodynamics And Then Meteorology.
The tower of Paris also directed Eiffel’s interest in aerodynamics, being used as a structure for several experiments to build the first aerodynamic laboratory at the tower’s base, which was later moved to the outskirts of the city. The lab included a wind tunnel, in which work inspired some of the world’s first aviators, who include the Wright Brothers. In fact, the father of the Eiffel Tower went on to write many books about aerodynamics, among which the most notable is “Resistance of the Air and Aviation”, which was first published in 1907. He then turned his interest to meteorology in the final years of his life, where he studied the subject at length before dying on the 27th of December in 1923.
7. He Was An Avid Fan Of Classic Literature.
Truth is, Eiffel had a vast library of leather-bound works by Zola, Voltaire, Hugo and other influential literary figures. He, himself, also published more than 30 books and treatises that document his numerous experiments and projects during his lifetime.
8. He Got His Artistic Sophistication From His Ancestry.
Considering Eiffel’s ancestry, his artistic sophistication was not surprising. Hailing from Germany, his father’s family had built a reputation in tapestry-making in France, providing several generations with a comfortable lifestyle. As you can see, master merchant weavers in the 18th century were regarded as members of an elite trade, which makes Eiffel’s origins an interesting mixture of artisan and bourgeois.
9. He Once Worked As a Private Secretary.
Before attaining fame, Eiffel’s first paid job was being a private secretary for a successful engineer of railways.
10. He Designed And Built The Patented Locks That Were Supposed To Be Used In The Panama Canal.
In 1887, Eiffel’s company started to design and build patented locks that were supposed to be used in the construction of the Panama Canal. However, it was not long that the firm that hired him went bankrupt, causing the project to be stopped. After some investigations, Eiffel was accused of misusing the funds for the project, prompting him to invest in a great deal of energy and money to fight the charges. Ultimately, Eiffel was cleared of the charges.
It is no doubt that Eiffel’s life was a very interesting one. When he bestowed his family name on his tower of Paris, it was regarded as a justifiable act of pride. Over time, the monument and his name became one and the same, but the man behind such a towering masterpiece has not definitely disappeared in its shadow.