Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (1832 – 1923)

The French civil engineer Gustave Eiffel developed an international practice particularly for large wrought-iron and steel structures. He was born in Dijon to a family originating from Marmager in the Eifel region, from which they took their name, although their ancestral name was Bonickhausen,. He studied chemistry at the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris, but became a railway engineer, designing stations at Toulouse and Agen.

 

From 1864, when he was 32, he established an independent consultancy. His outstanding railway structure was the Garabit Viaduct near Ruynes en Margeride in the Massif Central, 565 m long, with a principal arch spanning 165 m. Later in his career he designed the Viaduc de la Louleuvre in Normandy on the railway from Caen to Saint-Lo, opened in 1893, a wrought-iron viaduct on granite pillars, 364.2 m long and 62.5 m high. The line closed in 1860, and the iron spans were removed, leaving only the five granite pillars remaining.

 

In Budapest Eiffel was responsible for the construction of the 146 m X 42 m train shed of the West (Nyugati Palyaudvar) railway station in 1874-7, although the architectural details were the work of he railway company`s architect, W.A.de Serres. Eiffel built the 160 long Mia Pia Bridge over the River Douro in Oporto in 1877, in collaboration with the Belgian Company, Theophile Sevrig. He built a pedestrian truss bridge over the Onyard river at Giron in Catalonia in 1876-7, and other pedestrian bridges at Chaumont in the 19th arrondisement of Paris in 1867 and at Bry-sur-Marne in 1893-4.

 

His best-known and most spectacular achievements were the wrought-iron frame for the Statue of Liberty, whose construction he supervised from 1885, and the tower in Paris, built in 1887-9 that marked the centenary of the French Revolution. While it was being built he was accused of corrupt practices relating to the proposed Panama Canal. He was exonerated in 1893, but devoted much of the rest of his life to finding appropriate uses for the Eiffel Tower.