Alexandre Gustave Eiffel in his office in Paris in 1913 (Getty)

A French engineer, born in 1832 AD. He specialized in metal construction and built many bridges and railways around the world. His name was associated with one of the famous tourist attractions. He made many contributions to aerodynamics. He died in 1923 at the age of 91 years.

Birth and upbringing

Alexandre Gustave Eiffel - nicknamed the "Iron Wizard" - was born on December 15, 1832 AD in the city of Dijon, southeast of the French capital, Paris, to a well-off family whose origins come from the city of the Rhineland in western Germany.

His father was a military official in the French army, and his mother worked in the coal business with her family.

His father adopted the surname "Eiffel" for the family in the 19th century AD, in reference to a mountain range in the German Eifel region, which bears the same name, after the father noticed that the French found it difficult to pronounce the family's original surname, "Boneckhausen."

The Eiffel Tower is a tourist attraction in Paris that attracts 7 million tourists annually (Reuters)

Study and training

Gustav finished his high school with distinction in science and humanities subjects, and began preparing for admission tests to enroll in the prestigious College of Applied Arts at that time, but he was not accepted there.

He then joined the Central School of Arts and Manufacturing in Paris, majoring in chemistry, to receive his university education there as a private liberal school considered one of the best engineering colleges in Europe after his family provided all the financial costs.

He obtained the equivalent of a Master of Science degree in 1855 AD, the same year in which Paris hosted the First World Exhibition.

Eiffel's uncle, the chemist and businessman Jean-Baptiste Mollerat, had a strong influence on him and endeared him to chemistry. He was planning to take over the management of the Jean factory at his will, but a dispute broke out between his father and his uncle that stopped this plan.

Architectural experience

He began working with the construction engineer Charles Neveu on railway projects in 1856 AD, and at the age of 26 he was assigned to manage the construction site of the Bordeaux railway bridge, which is more than 500 meters long over the raging Garonne River, and the features of his engineering genius began to appear as he used techniques to lay the foundations of piers. Pneumatic bridge.

He became famous after he became the company's chief engineer, and was responsible for supervising several bridges in southwestern France. He was considered one of the first engineers to use compressed air caissons (watertight detention structures that allow work underwater) in building bridges.

He began establishing his own company, “Eiffel,” in 1866 AD. It was a company specializing in metal construction, and it became one of the world’s leading companies in building railway stations, bridges, and metal structural works.

Eiffel developed methods for shipping prefabricated and disassembled steel structures around the world, and his engineering prowess reached many countries such as the United States, Spain, Brazil, Uruguay, Peru, Mexico, and Chile.

In 1875, he was assigned to negotiate the implementation of the Budapest station in Hungary with an area of ​​13,000 square metres. Then his company received support from the Belgian engineer Théofile Seyrig, and an international tender was conducted for the company to build a bridge and railways over the famous Douro River in the Portuguese city of Vila Nova de Gaia, with a length of 160 meters. meters using 525 steel arches.

Eiffel completed a distinctive design for the bridge at a low cost, in which he used the technique of combining forces through a double-hinged arch that supports a single-line railway panel through columns that extend the entire bridge. The project was completed in less than two years, and it was inaugurated by King De Luis and Queen De Maria Pia, who carried the bridge. Her name then.

By the Universal Exposition of 1878 AD, the Eiffel Company had become one of the most powerful French metal construction companies, and the Franco-American Union and engineer Frederic Auguste Bartholdi assigned it the task of building the inner frame of the Statue of Liberty, after the death of the original designer of the statue’s inner structure in 1879.

Eiffel designed a metal structure that is resistant to strong winds due to the statue’s location overlooking New York Harbor, and resistant to different climatic conditions, using 100 tons of iron plates.

Gustave Eiffel also designed the movable dome of the observatory in Nice, and completed it in 1881 AD, and he implemented the Garabette Bridge in the Cantal region of southern France in 1884 AD, with a length of 162 meters.

In 1886, the French government announced a competition to design a tower that would become a tourist attraction for the 1889 Paris Universal Exposition.

Eiffel, with the suggestion of his assistants, engineers Mel Noguier and Maurice Koechlin, presented a design for a 300-meter-high tower that symbolizes the century of industry and science, and won the competition out of 700 projects.

A number of engineering works were included in the tower's design to add tourism and cultural weight to the project, including Notre Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe, and three identical columns in Place Vendôme.

Gustav faced some engineering challenges during construction, as he found it difficult to use regular lifting equipment after completing 15 meters of the tower, so he then resorted to using mobile cranes and pyramid scaffolds, and completed the project in two years and two months.

Gustave Eiffel was a successful architect and excelled at building bridges and towers (Getty)

Panama Canal Project

The tower project initially faced strong rejection from many French people, who considered it a distortion of the aesthetic view of Paris, but public opinion quickly changed after the Eiffel Tower became a major tourist destination, receiving about 7 million tourists annually.

After his success in this project, the Eiffel Tower, Gustave was assigned to the Panama Canal construction project, which was managed by Ferdinand de Lesseps. He agreed to build 10 locks for the canal in 1887 AD for an amount of 125 million French francs, but the company responsible for building the canal was liquidated in February 1889 AD, and Eiffel was accused. Then he was involved in a financial scandal alongside de Lesseps and his son, and he was sentenced to two years in prison and a fine of 2,000 French francs. He was later acquitted of all charges and the case against him was invalidated.

After that crisis, Gustav devoted his efforts to scientific research for 30 years until his death, and shifted his interests to meteorology, aerodynamics, and radio broadcasting, and published numerous papers and articles on the effects of wind resistance on metal structures.

He also built a meteorological observatory on top of the Eiffel Tower, placed equipment in various places, and built a tunnel under the tower to benefit from it and to confirm the success of the tower.

He proposed to the army to install radio equipment on top of the tower to benefit from it for communications. He also proposed investing in the installation of television broadcasting equipment, and then built another, larger tunnel on Rue Boileau in Paris in 1909.

Awards and honors

  • He was awarded the Legion of Honor.

  • He was knighted in 1878.

  • He received the rank of officer for the opening of the Eiffel Tower in 1889.

  • He received from Portugal the Order of the Lamb, rank of Commander, for designing the Douro Bridge.

  • He was awarded the Italian Crown Order, rank of Commander, for implementing detachable bridges.

  • He was awarded the Order of Isabella the Catholic with the rank of Commander from Spain for the task of designing the Tagi Bridge.

  • Russia awarded him the Order of Saint Anne with the rank of Commander for his implementation of removable bridges.

  • He assumed the presidency of the French Society of Civil Engineers in 1889, where he received the position of honorary life member.


Gustave Eiffel died on December 27, 1923 in his private mansion on rue Rabelais in Paris and was buried in the Levallois-Perret cemetery.

Source: websites