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 the bridge. Eiffel was able to take out a loan and opened his 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. It was Eiffel’s proposal for the Exposition Universelle (World Fair) of 1889 in Paris, to commemorate the centenary of the French Revolution. The final design involved a giant pylon, made up of four legs spaced at the base but joined as they rose to the top. Each leg consisted of a trellis structure of wrought-iron beams, and all four legs were linked together 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, after Viollet-le-Duc’s death, needed additional engineering skills to complete the Statue of Liberty. Eiffel was chosen for his experience with iron and the stress of the wind and designed a brand new internal iron structure to support the statue’s copper body. The structure was initially erected at the Eiffel factories in Paris and was later dismantled and shipped to the United States.
Eiffel’s pylon is visible in Paris, France, where the Statue was first constructed

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Between his bridges, he directed the erection of:

  • Iron bridge in Bordeaux in 1858.
  • Bridge over the Douro River (1877) in Oporto, with a steel arch (160-metres).
  • Span Garabit Viaduct (1880-1884) over the Truyère River in southern France. 540 feet (162-metres) high for many years it remained the tallest 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 Nice observatory (1879).
Dome of Observatory, Gustave Eiffel, 1879, Nice

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