Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923)

Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel was a famous French civil engineer, who is best known for the construction of the Eiffel Tower.

Portrait of Gustave Eiffel, Felix Nadar, 1888

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About his life

Alexander-Gustave Eiffel was born in Dijon, France on December 15, 1832. Eiffel became interested in construction at an early age. As a civil engineer, he specialized in metal structures, primarily bridges. As his career progressed, Eiffel retired from bridge. Eiffel was able to take out a loan and opened his own workshops (Eiffel et Cie) at the end of 1866. It is best known for what later became known as the Eiffel Tower, the construction of which began in 1887 for the 1889 World Exhibition in Paris. In the last years of his life, Eiffel took an intense interest in meteorology. He died on December 27, 1923.

Gustave Eiffel standing with another man near the top of the tower in 1889.

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What were his major works?

  • The Eiffel Tower (1887-1889) was his most important work. The tower was Eiffel’s successful design-submission for a structural centrepiece for the Exposition Universelle (World Fair) of 1889 in Paris, to commemorate the centenary of the French Revolution. The final design featured a giant pylon, made up of four legs set apart at the base but drawing together as they rose, eventually coming together at the top. Each leg consisted of a lattice-like frame of wrought-iron girders, and all four legs were connected to each other by metal trusses at regular intervals.
Eiffel Tower, Gustave Eiffel, 1887-1889, Paris

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  • Statue of Liberty. In 1881 Eiffel was contacted by Auguste Bartholdi who needed additional engineering expertise in order to complete the Statue of Liberty, after the death of Viollet-le-Duc. He was chosen because of his expertise with iron and wind-stress. Eiffel designed a brand new internal iron framework to support the copper body of the statue. The entire structure was first erected at the Eiffel works in Paris before being disassembled and shipped to the United States.
Eiffel’s pylon is visible in Paris, France, where the Statue was first constructed

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Among his bridges, he directed the erection of:

  • Iron bridge at Bordeaux in 1858.
  • Bridge at Douro River (1877) at Oporto, with a (160-metres) steel arch.
  • Span Garabit Viaduct (1880-1884) over the Truyère River in southern France. It’s 540-foot (162-metres) high and for many years it remained the highest bridge in the world.
Garabit Viaduct, Gustave Eiffel, 1880-1884, Truyère River

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  • Gallery of Machines for the Paris Exhibition of 1867
  • Movable dome of the observatory at Nice (1879).
Dome of Observatory, Gustave Eiffel, 1879, Nice

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